Childrens background stories

Two sisters

It is very hard and challenging for me to talk about this topic: The tragic and heartbreaking past of those children, who now live in our children’s village. Before I start with this story you should know, that not all of our children are orphans. Some of them do have relatives, however they are not able to take care or raise their family members for various reasons. Mostly it is caused by absolute poverty.  Nobody would leave a child behind in Cambodia if it wasn’t for immense necessity. Usually, families stick together and are extremely close. It is natural that neighbors help each other as well. Furthermore, the monks at the pagodas support families in need as much as possible.

Some parents give their children to them when they don’t see any other way out of their state of crisis. One of these pagodas is very close to our children’s village, and I used to go there with our children very often. I witnessed how critical the monks were: before they entrusted one of their children to our NGO, they wanted to have a lot of information about us and came to the children’s village on many occasions to see how the children, who had already been here, were and who took care of them. Eventually they decided that our children’s village indeed is a safe and stable place to live for children in need and they decided that a number of children, that lived at the pagoda, could come here. What our children already had to go through in their young lives is unimaginable. When I came to Tani for the first time (when our children’s village opened up in 2009) I got to know 2 sisters. They were two of the first seven children who came to our children’s village. I will never forget the time that we spent together back in those days. Every time I return to Tani, I am happy to see they are developing positively and are able to put their past behind them. In 2009, these two sisters were traumatized.
They were always holding hands, their faces were emotionless. They witnessed the continual abuse their father inflicted on their mother, which eventually escalated to the point where he murdered her. Desperate, defenseless, and terrified the two girls ran away and hid in the woods, where they survived by eating berries, roots, and fruits. When I met them, the younger sister had shaven hair. She expressed her pain by ripping her own hair out -it was incredibly devestating to see that. Today her hair is beautifully long, she laughs and always has a smile on her face. The pain, however, is not hidden from her eyes and you can see that she has not forgotten what she has gone through and never will.  She is surrounded by loving people, primarly her older sister, but also the other children, who have similar backgrounds. She is also very close with her housemother, who is always there for her.
Ursula Beyer

German Chairwoman


Struck by lightening

This is the sad background story of one of our youngest girls. She lost her mother when she was only two years old. She was struck by lightning when she was out on the rice field to bring their only cow home. The cow didn’t survive the tragic incident either. Since the father did not want his young daughther to grow up without a mother figure in the family, he got married again. However, he didn’t know that his new wife was HIV positive. It didn’t take long until she died from this disease, and the father found himself and his daughter alone again after only one year of marriage. The father persumably didn’t know about the contagious and, in Cambodia mostly deadly, disease. He was infected, and soon began to succumb to the disease. He tried his best to take care of his little daughter – he sold their chickens and ducks, eventually leaving the family with no animals. He got sicker: he lost a drastic amount of weight and soon was too exhausted to work. Their neighbors were poor as well, yet helped them as much as they could. The father still has relatives somewhere in Cambodia, but they lost touch a very long time ago. As his physical health and fitness deteriorated, his worry and concern about what would happen to his child after he is gone increased. There was only one way to make sure that somebody would take care of her. He washed her for the last time behind their small hut. He put his daughter in her cleanest clothes. He hugged her, cried –knowing he would rarely get to see her. The two were brought to the children’s village. We used to visit the girl’s father once in a while, where she told him about the children’s village. The man was glad to hear that his daughter is well taken care of, that she doesn’t have to suffer from hunger anymore, and she even goes to school. However, the child is unable to cope with her past and all the memories, that she has kept. She is very quiet and introverted. She barely smiles. Meanwhile, her father has passed away and the people in the children’s village are the only family that she has. It is a place where she can grow up without being confronted with any further traumatizing experiences

She is surrounded by loving people and is able to be a child again, who neither has to worry about food nor her future. I hope, that the girl will be able to overcome her past.


Ursula Beyer German Chairwoman


Left behind

In Cambodia, children who were left behind from their parents are legally considered as orphans. The father of three of our children, two girls and one boy, disappeared many years ago. The mother took care of her family all by herself for a while, but soon she had her own plans as well. Without telling anybody, without saying goodbye, she left from one day to another. The siblings found themselves alone and defenseless. They didn’t understand what had happened, why everybody left them behind and they came to the conclusion, that their parents never truly loved them. That must be a heartbreaking experience for young children.

The 4-year-old boy was brought to a pagoda, where monks fed and raised him for 5 months. The two girls lived at their grandparents place, who were already in their seventies. They lived under extremely poor conditions, since the only two family members, that the girls had left, were too weak and exhausted to work. However, their grandparents did everything they could for their granddaughters and provided them with the little food they had. They also received help from their neighbors. Eventually, the NGO found out about the little boy. After the monks had taken a close look at the children’s village, they agreed to let him live here. We soon found out, that the child had two sisters somewhere in the province. We tracked them down, and they too became a part of the children’s village. The two girls and their brother saw each other again for the first time in 5 months. It is heartbreaking for me to think about what had happened to them: first being left behind by their parents, then being seperated from each other.
The grandparents were very sad to let go of their grandchildren on one hand, but on the other they were glad and thankful that they could live in a safe place now where they are really taken care of. They too came to the children’s village and were amazed by the beautiful houses, the good food, and all the other children, who had already been living here. The most beautiful thing to see was how welcoming the other children were towards their grandchildren. I still see how hard it is to understand for those three children why their parents left them behind. They are certainly traumatized, but I think being reunited and being able to at least be around the family that they still have is very important and good for them. The oldest girl is already on the road to recovery. She wears a smile on her face and spends a lot of time with her new friends. The younger girl has plenty of friends as well and is very beloved in the children’s village, but she still has days when she just needs time for herself. It is still very hard for the young boy to progress from what had happened to him. He is generally a very happy child, who loves singing and dancing, but he still cries very often. Particularly when his housemother takes holidays and leaves the children’s village for a few days. 

This situation certainly reminds him how he had already been left alone by two important people in his life. It will take a while, until these three children consider the people around them as their new family and the children’s village itself as their new home. They need time and help to overcome their trauma, and to truly feel safe and loved. But the children’s-village-family is here for them every single day, and I hope that helps them

Ursula Beyer German Chairwoman

Hermann Gmeiner


„Ich weiß nichts Besseres, einem Kind zu helfen, als ihm eine Mutter zu geben, Geschwister zu geben, ein Haus, ein Dorf zu geben“


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Ziel des Projekts „Tani – Perspektiven für Kinder in Kambodscha“ ist es Waisen- und bedürftigen Kindern ein Leben in einem sicheren Zuhause, Zugang zu Bildung und ein kindergerechtes Aufwachsen zu ermöglichen.