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A Greater Hope Portraits From a Rural Cambodian Orphanage

- Erica Simone -


In February 2010, I traveled open-mindedly to Cambodia, in essence, to discover its culture, meet its children, photograph their faces and help in whichever way possible. During my time there, I visited a half dozen NGOs, schools and orphanages, two of which I developed strong relationships with. My most memorable and cherished experience was at A Greater Hope Orphanage, located approximately an hour and a half outside of the capital, Phnom Penh, in a small and impoverished rural village, Temy. A Greater Hope was graced with 35 of the bravest, most beautiful souls, whose smiles imprinted in these pages will remain engraved in my heart forever. The courage, kindness and caring nature of these children have taught me so many valuable life lessons, including appreciation and forgiveness, which their understanding of seems extremely difficult to fathom considering the gruesome hardships they had endured at such a young age. During my stay and through these encounters, I began to question the meaning of life—as all of us do at times or others. I realized that perhaps the simple knowledge of how to love, how to give and how to appreciate are all it really takes to be at peace with life and to be a good person. The children I met in Cambodia have become my most cherished role models. I dedicate this book to all the children of Cambodia, and to Kit and Ream Carson, whose love and selfless devotion towards their children at A Greater Hope proves amazing honor and incredible inspiration on so many levels. May their path from now and forever in saving the lives of children be blessed with ease and happiness. For more information and to contact A Greater Hope Orphanage, please visit: http://www.agreaterhopeorphanage.org Love,

Erica Simone


Weed, 7

"My family used to live in a small house in the city. My father got really sick and we didn’t

have enough money to help him, so my mother sold the house. My father still did not get better and, because we didn’t have enough money to stay in the city, we moved to the village with my grandmother. My father eventually passed away and my mother had to go back to the city to get a job in order to support us while we stayed with our paternal grandparents. She got a job as a cleaner in a factory. Our grandparents were so mean, they treated us very harshly and would say horrible things to us. They threatened us so we wouldnt tell on them, but when my mom came to visit, my brother Chi told our maternal grandmother. My mother took us to my grandmother’s who was very nice, but very poor. Chi and Hau would work hard to help my grandmother so we could eat. She and my brothers sold snacks at the sand pit where all the people worked. One day, there was a man with a big truck who came to buy sand. He saw us and he told my grandmother about the orphanage. After my brothers, Sang Hua and Vechi, and I moved to the orphanage, we all became very happy.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to make and sell cakes.”


On, 8

"My parents passed away when I was very young. I was so little that I couldn’t remem-

ber why, but my sister told me that they had been sick: my mother had tuberculosis and my father had diabetes. We lived as orphans for while, with no family or anyone to care for us until my oldest sister got married. The three of us then went to live with my sister’s father-in-law. He had five children of his own; it was very kind of him to take us in. When we went to live with him, we became Christians—they taught us about Christianity and Jesus. I believe in Him. I would go to church, Sunday school and went to kindergarten at the church. Five months later, Jon and I came to live at the orphanage because my uncle-in-law could not afford to keep us anymore and they wanted us to have a better life. I am at the orphanage now; my life is much nicer and I know I will have a better future.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to be a driver.”


Peaktra, 6

"My mother left us with our grandma when I was very little. My grandma did not

take good care of us. I got sick a lot and my ears hurt badly. Mommy says I have a hole in them and that I might go deaf one day.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to sew.”


Rosa, 8

“When I was very little, my father left my mother for another woman. My mother was

very poor, working in the fields and selling eggs to raise my sisters and I. One of my sisters is from my mother’s first husband. I have another sister, Engly, who lives with me at the orphanage now. We were four girls at home and my mom tried really hard to take care of us, but it was too hard and sometimes we didn’t have enough food. We would sit and cry with her when things got bad. She was often sick and didn’t have enough money to buy medicine so my mother decided to go work as a servant in a rich family’s house in the city with my oldest sister. Engly and I had to stay with my grandmother and great grandmother. They are both very old and very poor as well. My great grandmother is 90 so it is hard for them to work in the fields and raise us. My great-aunt heard about the orphanage and asked if we could come live here. We are very happy now, but I still cry sometimes because I miss my mother.

My oldest sister was very sick while she was working with the family in the city. Her

gums were bleeding so badly that the doctors couldn’t help her; she died soon after—she was fifteen. My mother brought her to the village to have a funeral at my grandmother’s house; we were so, so sad. Before I came to the orphanage, I had never gone to school and didn’t know how to read but now I know how. I am very happy because I can read stories from the bible. I really like the Good Samaritan story.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to work in a sewing company.”


Darow, 11

"When I was one month-old, my mother threw me away, but my grandmother saved

me and ended up raising me. My mom left and I haven’t seen her since. I lived with my grandmother until I came to the orphanage.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? "I want to be a singer.”


Vichika, 10 Vicheka and her brother, Peaktra, have left the orphanage and gone home. Vicheka will be a baby sitter for a 2 year-old grand child and Peaktra will not get the medical help he needs and will most likely go deaf.


Tate, 14

"When I was little, I would get sick a lot and my mother began to give up hope­—she

thought that I was going to die. So my grandmother said that she would care for me. I felt better after I moved in with her, and so I stayed there. When I was around eight years old, my grandmother became ill so I cared for her. One day, I went to visit my mother and stayed for dinner. It was getting dark so my mom told me to stay the night. The next morning, my grandmother had passed away and her neighbor said that she was crying out my name all night until she died. I was very sad that I hadn’t been there for her. This is a memory I will never forget.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to be an accountant.”


A Greater Hope  

Portraits from a Rural Cambodian Orphanage

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