In 2006, Saskatchewan couple, Harley and Christy, travelled through South East Asia and fell in love in with the landscape, the people and the culture.
It was this trip that inspired them to sponsor a 5-year-old girl, Sovann from Cambodia.
Over their 10 years of sponsorship they got to know Sovann through letters and pictures. They exchanged anecdotes about their lives, and quickly got to know all about Sovann, her two siblings and parents, who live on a simple family farm in rural Cambodia.
Harley and Christy always wanted to travel back to South East Asia, and as Sovann was growing older they knew it was time to make that dream a reality! So, in February of 2017 they embarked on their return trip to visit Sovann in Cambodia.
An unforgettable journey
Their journey to meet Sovann required travelling off the beaten path, to a small northern community that receives very few tourists. After meeting up with local Plan International staff, they were set to visit to meet Sovann in person for the first time!
Not knowing what to expect, Harley and Christy wondered how they would be received by Sovann, her family and community. But within minutes of arriving, all hesitations were thrown aside as they were greeted with smile and a big hug from Sovann!
A gracious welcome by the community
“When we arrived at Sovann’s home, we were just expecting to meet with her family but there were at least twenty other villagers and family members also there to greet us – elders, village leaders, friends, and neighbourhood children had all gathered to participate. I think they were just as interested to meet us as we were to meet them.”
After the excitement settled, they all sat down and began exchanging stories of what life was like in their respective countries.
Sovann’s family took an interest in Harley’s pictures of the Saskatchewan landscapes. As Sovann’s family are farmers, it was something they recognized and could relate to. Sovann also shared that she dreams of owning her own farm one day!
“A moment we will never forget”
Meeting your sponsored child can be an emotional experience. We asked Harley and Christy to describe the moment they met Sovann for the very first time:
“Meeting in person certainly was impactful and cemented the feeling our donations were helping real people and their communities. It was interesting to hear from Sovann about her ambitions and see that she had saved many of our letters and pictures,” said Harley.
“It was a very rewarding experience and a moment we will never forget!”
Seeing Plan International’s projects first-hand
While in Cambodia, Harley and Christy had the opportunity to see some of the ways Child Sponsorship is helping the greater community.
“Being able to meet local people benefitting from the programs brought the real impact of Plan International’s work to life.”
They travelled to an elementary school, where they met young children learning in a pre-school constructed on site by Plan International. They learned that Plan International had also built latrines and conducted teachers training to ensure quality education for all students.
The final project they visited was a vocational sewing school for girls. Here, girls who come from poor areas are offered room and board while they get the skills training needed to get a job and earn an income!
Harley and Christy felt their trip helped them to truly understand the impact and greater need for more programs and projects like the ones they visited.
“Plan International’s projects provide fundamental building blocks that are necessary for people to break through the limitations of poverty. Basic education, health, and infrastructure allow people to pursue opportunities otherwise unavailable.”
Child Sponsorship creates a brighter future for all
We asked Harley and Christy how their trip changed their perspective and what they would say someone who was considering sponsoring a child:
“A relatively small amount of money for us can go a long way for others in providing opportunities,” said the Canadian couple.
“You’ll make a difference, not only for one child but also for an entire community.”