From generation to generation...
L toR: Sengyou (father to Chhem and  all  the kids at our BB1 home), Chhem, Davita, Kda and me on a recent Sunday in Battambang, Cambodia. (photo by Dylan Menges)

L toR: Sengyou (father to Chhem and all the kids at our BB1 home), Chhem, Davita, Kda and me on a recent Sunday in Battambang, Cambodia. (photo by Dylan Menges)

Young Chhem enjoyed a wonderful childhood at our Battambang 1 home. She’s excited to provide a loving family for the next generation of kids at our Prek Eng 2 home.

Young Chhem enjoyed a wonderful childhood at our Battambang 1 home. She’s excited to provide a loving family for the next generation of kids at our Prek Eng 2 home.

When I was in Cambodia a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Chhem, a young woman who grew up at Asia’s Hope. I’ve been waiting until now to tell you what, for me, is the most exciting part of this story.

Chhem and her husband Kda (along with their daughter, Davita) are joining the Asia’s Hope staff as the new home parents of the Prek Eng 2 home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia!

Prek Eng 2 holds a special place in my heart, and this transition is bittersweet, as it also marks the retirement of my dear friends and longtime colleagues, Narun and Sophal, who parented the home for 13 years. It’s always difficult to transition a home to a new set of parents, but the time is right, and all but a small handful of the PE2 children are grown and have gone off to university or the workforce.

With a bit of sadness we wish Narun and Sophal — parents at the Prek Eng 2 home for 13 years —congratulations on their retirement and prayer for the next chapter of their lives.

With a bit of sadness we wish Narun and Sophal — parents at the Prek Eng 2 home for 13 years —congratulations on their retirement and prayer for the next chapter of their lives.

I encourage you to read the story of Chhem’s rescue, promised to her in her dreams by a God she’d never even met. It’s a real-life, miraculous tale that moves me to tears every time I tell it — not just because it’s intrinsically astonishing, but because I’ve known Chhem since she and her sister came to Asia’s Hope, and I’ve been honored by God to have played a bit role in her epic drama.

If you spend any time with Chhem, you’ll recognize that she is a strong woman. But she is also humble and compassionate. And when you hear her talk about her daddy Sengyou and her mommy Sokhean, you’ll truly understand what it is we’re trying to do at Asia’s Hope.

If Chhem and Kda are half the parents Sengyou and Sokhean were to her, we will have succeeded, and the current and soon-to-arrive new kids at PE2 will enjoy a loving home with a bright future. Of course, I believe that Chhem and Kda not only represent the best of our first generation of Asia’s Hope kids, but the future of our organization as well.

Please pray for Chhem and Kda and for the kids they’ll raise at Asia’s Hope.

May God continue to bless you and guide us all into courageous leadership on behalf of these kids.


John McCollumComment
Best in the world.
This young woman, pictured here with her coach, lives at our Doi Saket 1c home in Thailand, and is currently the best female bowler in her age group — in the world!

This young woman, pictured here with her coach, lives at our Doi Saket 1c home in Thailand, and is currently the best female bowler in her age group — in the world!

Well, this trip is officially in the books. Dylan and I are back in Phnom Penh and our plan is take off for Seoul (then Detroit, then Columbus) at about 1130pm. We drove in from Siem Reap early this morning and we’re just killing time before heading home.  We’ll have a brief send off with a couple of our staff at the airport, but we resisted the urge to drive out to our Prek Eng campus — I said goodbye to those kids a couple of weeks ago, and it’d hurt like heck to see them for a half hour just to turn around and leave.

I’m enjoying some good coffee and decent WiFi, and I wanted to share an experience I had a couple of days ago before leaving Chiang Mai. 

Longtime Asia’s Hope followers may remember hearing about our world-class youth cricketers from Asia’s Hope Thailand. Yes, cricket. It’s a bit unexpected, as Thailand isn’t widely known as a cricket powerhouse. And in Thailand, very few people follow the sport. But thanks to the hard work of some innovative and dedicated coaches in Chiang Mai, not to mention the tireless efforts of the players themselves, we’ve produced some extraordinary players through the years.

This year, our the Chiang Mai boys’ U13 (age 13 and under) and girls’ U16 teams are ranked number one in Thailand. The girls’ team is in the world top ten. And, get this, one of our girls is currently the world’s top ranked female bowler (pitcher, for you baseball fans) in her age group.

Top in the world. Best of the best. I can’t help beaming with pride when I think about it! 

Many of us will never even meet a world-champion-anything, so I kind of feel like this is a pretty big deal. More so given our kids’ status as hill-tribe minorities and former orphans. 

If you support Asia’s Hope, you have a stake in these players’ success. Your generosity has allowed us to provide stable families for these kids, giving them the strong foundation they need to thrive, not just survive.

If you haven’t yet supported Asia’s Hope, what’s stopping you? Click on the “give” button and make a recurring donation to help us rescue and raise more kids like these — independent, strong champions ready to take on the world.

Photo credits: Dylan Menges @mengesdesign

Team photos from the recent tournament in Bangkok, Thailand

John McCollumComment
Burma trek and village visit

Yesterday morning Tutu, Dylan and I left our guest house in Doi Saket bright and early and made the drive to Mae Sot, about six hours away on the border with Myanmar, or Burma, as they used to call it. Despite the smog — brought on by the long dry season and the traditional slash-and-burn agriculture — the scenery was beautiful, especially as we headed through he mountains toward the border. 

We arrived in Mae Sot, ditched our bags at the hotel and then drove another hour toward the Karen tribal village that was once home to about 13 of our children. Along the way we passed a massive camp housing more than 60,000 hilltribe refugees forced out of Myanmar due to their tribes’ political and ethnic tensions with the majority Burmese population. 

I’ve been conditioned by CNN to picture refugee camps as an endless grid of white tents in the middle of the desert. But this camp is built onto the mountainside and is composed of bamboo and thatch huts, all paper dry and liable to go up in flames from the slightest stray spark. In fact, this camp was almost leveled a few years ago by a fire that ripped through it in just minutes, killing scores and intensifying the misery of thousands of already-weary and entirely helpless families. No one knows for sure how the fire started but rumors are that local Thais, tired of involuntarily hosting their war-ravaged neighbors, are to blame.

It’s strange to see such abject misery juxtaposed with such extravagant natural beauty, but I suppose life is like that for so many people. 

 

https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/09/12/ad-hoc-and-inadequate/thailands-treatment-refugees-and-asylum-seekers 

A few kilometers past the refugee camp, we turned off the main road onto a dusty path that is impassible by car during the rainy season. We fully utilized the truck’s 4-wheel drive system, carefully climbing and descending steep hills and narrow dirt roads until we reached a small village with houses made by hand out of teak harvested and planed by local tribesmen and huts fashioned from bamboo gleaned from the surrounding jungle. 

Beyond our desire to document village life to demonstrate the kinds of backgrounds our kids have come from, we made this visit to check in on a handful of our children who were spending some of their school break with their relatives in their hometown. Most of our kids speak no Thai when they come into our care. But after a few years, it’s their tribal language fluency that suffers. As an organization staffed by hilltribe adults for the benefit of hilltribe kids, it’s important that these children maintain a knowledge, pride and comfort with their culture of origin. Some of these kids will assimilate into Thai culture as adults, but some will choose to return to their villages to live, and they need to know how to survive.

So, under the careful supervision of our staff and the watchful eye of a village pastor, these kids spend a couple of weeks each year immersing themselves in their original language, foodways and traditional style of living. It was a joy to see them in this context, and to meet the aunts, uncles and grandparents who cared for them after their parents died or abandoned them. 

We walked around with the kids, took pictures and socialized with the villagers. Before leaving, a tribal elder invited us to his house where we chewed betel, a mildly stimulating combination of nut, paste and leaf that, if consumed every day, can lead to addiction — and blood red teeth. With our staff’s assurances, we decided it wouldn’t hurt us to give it a shot in service of cultural bonding. It was...interesting. Mildly astringent and wildly herbaceous, it’s something of an acquired taste. But it did leave our tongues tingling and produced a slight, caffeine-like buzz. I’m glad I tried it, but it’s not a habit I’ll be bringing back to the states.

After a fitful night’s sleep in our hotel’s rock-hard beds, Dylan and I got up in the morning and, accompanied by a local Burmese Chin-Dai tribal pastor, we crossed over into Myanmar where we ate a fantastic breakfast of tea, coffee, Chinese-style steamed buns and what I’d describe as a Burmese empanada. We traipsed through bustling markets selling everything from betel to, well, beetles. It was a sensory assault, but I could really see myself cooking with the fresh produce and proteins on a regular basis.  

After a few hours, we successfully retrieved our passports which the Burmese immigration police had confiscated upon arrival, and we headed back to our hotel. After that, we had some noodles and hit the road. It was a long and tiring couple of days, but boy was it fascinating. 

I hope my pictures convey a little bit of what we experienced. Please join me in praying for the refugees at the camp and for the believers in Burma. They are completely helpless and desperately in need of God’s blessing. 

And thank you for supporting our work.  

We’re just a few days out from our return flights home. We’re going to try to pack as much into those last days as possible. With any luck, I’ll be able to take a lot more pictures. 

IMG_0626.JPG
IMG_0625.JPG
IMG_0613.JPG

Massive refugee camp in along the mountainside dividing Thailand and Myanmar. 

IMG_0620.JPG
IMG_0632.JPG

photo credit: Dylan Menges 

IMG_0635.JPG
IMG_0634.JPG

 photo credit: Dylan Menges

IMG_0633.JPG

photo credit: Dylan Menges

IMG_0615.JPG
IMG_0617.JPG
IMG_0608.JPG
IMG_0606.JPG
IMG_0609.JPG
IMG_0619.JPG
IMG_0639.JPG

 photo credit: Dylan Menges

IMG_0628.JPG
IMG_0618.JPG
IMG_0607.JPG
IMG_0638.JPG

 photo credit: Dylan Menges

A visit to a Karen village near the Burmese border. 

IMG_0622.JPG
IMG_0630.JPG
IMG_0616.JPG
IMG_0623.JPG
IMG_0629.JPG
IMG_0624.JPG
IMG_0621.JPG
IMG_0604.JPG
IMG_0631.JPG
IMG_0627.JPG
IMG_0641.JPG
IMG_0640.JPG
IMG_0642.JPG

A morning in Kayin State’s cafes, shops, streets and markets. 

John McCollumComment