Sowing seeds of hope in Cambodia
18 Jul 2014 | Blog | Cambodia | Long-term Development
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of HIV in Asia. But this picture is slowly changing thanks to the Seedling of Hope program, and the dedication of people like Sister Len Montiel.
Sister Len and her team work with children and adults affected by the virus. Caritas Australia has been supporting the program for almost a decade.
Sister Len, who is in Melbourne for the Catholic HIV and AIDs pre-conference in July, has transformed the lives of some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable people.
As its name suggests, the program works to help people build for their future. In one case, a family of five children had lost both their parents to AIDS; they were hungry and foraging in the fields for food. The children were taken in by the program and placed with a foster family, and now live in a safe and comfortable home, attend school, and are able to visit the doctor.
As Sister Len points out, the children have the foundation for happy, fulfilling lives:
“They have grown up with us and, hopefully, they can now move towards independence, responsible adulthood, and being able to care for themselves and others,” she says.
Helping people who live with HIV and AIDS…means focusing on their psychological health as much as their physical health.
Seedlings of hope
Seedling of Hope began in 1996 and works to maintain the dignity of those diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Those living with the virus are often ostracised in Cambodia, so it’s not just people’s physical needs that are important.
“Helping people who live with HIV and AIDS…means focusing on their psychological health as much as their physical health. By doing this, we’re able to ensure that they have everything they need to meet their daily needs, including support for their livelihoods,” says Sister Len.
Sister Len and her colleagues have given hope to many who, in addition to having to fight the disease, have also had to struggle with chronic poverty.
Faith in a brighter tomorrow guides her and her team’s work.
“I always tell our staff, when you get off your motorcycle, before you start work, look at your side mirror and say ‘I am the face of hope today,’ because most likely you’re probably the only person who will bring hope to the people that we work with,” she says. “It’s walking with them and walking slowly, at their pace. It’s a lifelong process — a journey, actually.”
More about our work in HIV and AIDS and the pre-conference.
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