I remember one specific summer night as a child in Ohio at our friends, the Hoppers', farm. I can still smell the bonfire and taste the strawberry ice cream churned fresh on the clapboard porch. I remember playing hide-and-seek in the high grass, relishing the freedom to run and roam while the grownups chatted in the kitchen as the sun set at the stars stretched out across the night sky.
No, our lives weren't perfect. We didn't have much money; I felt perpetually misunderstood by my parents and alienated from my siblings. But on that night, everyone was happy. Everyone ate their fill. We all played nicely with each other, and for a few moments, I even felt like I belonged with the older, cooler kids.
I haven't thought about that evening for many years. But tonight, the memories flooded back as the blazing heat of the Battambang day slowly gave way to a balmy dusk. As we wandered around the campus this evening visiting each of our homes in turn, stopping for cookies at one, a game of corn hole at another, I felt a profound sense that, at this place, children are safe. They're loved. They're included.
Even among the teen boys — engaged in a mighty struggle against a local high school's soccer team — a spirit of camaraderie not conflict prevailed. Younger boys looked on admiringly as their big brothers settled the score with a shootout; girls of all ages cheered on their siblings and admired the lithe athleticism of the visitors who lost graciously before waving goodbye and riding off on their motorbikes, vowing good-naturedly to fight another day.
The lives of the kids at Asia's Hope aren't ideal. These kids were once orphans, after all. They've experienced loss and alienation that I can only imagine. They're here because there's no other safe place for them. Their extended family either can't or won't care for them. But tonight and in this place, they're building memories of security and acceptance that they can treasure for a lifetime.
This place is not entirely unique — there are many wonderful towns and families one can grow up in. But for the orphaned and vulnerable children of this world, this is an extraordinarily rare environment. Many children who have been permanently separated from their parents by death or abandonment live each day on the edge of absolute disaster. Of starvation. Of exploitation.
But it doesn't have to be that way. I'm sure of it. We can expand the work of Asia's Hope to include other children. More importantly, we can describe, disseminate and distribute our model to poor communities from Ukraine to Uganda, from the Burundi to Bangladesh. Will you help? Please consider making a donation that will allow us provide high nurture, family-style care for even more of the millions of orphan kids who will go to sleep tonight without shelter, without food and without the loving home enjoyed by the children at Asia's Hope in Battambang.
God bless you.