She is 16. At least that is what she says. I suspect no one really knows for sure. Her birthday has never been celebrated. Not even one time. She used to go to school but that was a long time ago. She completed the second grade but then her father left and there was no more money for school. She started working full time when she was 9. She didn’t sleep well last night. She sleeps on a thin mat on a wood floor under a net. The net kept some of the mosquitos away last night but not all. Mosquitos, and the gifts of sickness that they bring, are simply part of life when you live near the river but she doesn’t want to get sick again. She got up on her own. Her mother has been too sick to do much work in recent months. It may be her heart. It may be something worse. But she doesn’t know for certain because her mother has never been to a doctor. It is 6:00 a.m. A little rice is all there is for breakfast but at least there is something today. She looks at the bicycle. It really isn’t much but it does help her do her work. She wishes that it was hers and that she didn’t have to rent it. The fifty cents a day rent for her is significant.
It’s time to go. She knows that if she doesn’t hurry all the good stuff will be gone. She takes her hat and a small bottle of water. A girl, a bike, a hat, some water – the work day begins. She heads to an area away from town. Today she will cover several miles. She is looking for cans. Cans are always good. They are light and easy to work with. But bottles are good too. They are just heavier and when they are broken they can cut through the bags or worse yet – her hands. But today was difficult. After almost 10 hours of searching all she had collected was a few pieces of cardboard and less than half of one bag full of cans. The buyer didn’t seem too interested in what she had. He weighed it and then decided to pay 4,000 riel. She thought it should have been more but what could she do. 4,000 riel is only $1 and that is a far cry less than her highest day. Once she actually made $3. Once. Today, after paying the rent on the bicycle, there will only be fifty cents left. That won’t buy much for dinner. Not for three.
Tonight she is too tired to spend time with any friends. Since there is no electricity at the house she won’t watch television or listen to the radio. Since there is no water she won’t even get to take a bath. But at 8:00 she will decide to call it a day and then plan to do it all again tomorrow.
But Monday is coming!
The story above is true. It is the story of one of the girls chosen to be a part of the new class of culinary training center students. Please pray for these girls as they embark upon a new journey. And pray for CGI as we begin not only working with them but also with their families!