Lunch Pals


Ten-year-old Sophea (center) and his friends are part of a 30-strong group of youngsters who meet for lunch in a church, thanks to a World Vision program. They rarely miss their mealtime together.

Most people in their community are migrants from other provinces. They come to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to find jobs, and settle near a dump site in the neglected district on the outskirts of the capital. The area is home to many children who lack hygienic living conditions, education and protection.

As a child from a vulnerable family, Sophea was used to staying at home and sharing a lunch of instant noodles with his younger sisters while his parents sold vegetables.

Sophea and his sisters are among many vulnerable children in the neighborhood who don’t have enough food to eat, lack parental care, and often miss school.

“I love to have lunch with my friends because it’s fun,” says Sophea, who hardly ever eats with his parents because they are always working.

Today’s menu is ground thin fried fish with vegetables followed by green bean  porridge for dessert. Cooking smells drift from a kitchen in which a clutch of women are rushing to serve the impatient children.

Interrupting the frenzy, Sophea asks Thona, who works at the House of Christ Church, to pray for him. “It’s about my studies,” he says.

Since they can’t spend much time with their children, Sophea’s parents worry about their safety and education. Sophea has been one of World Vision’s sponsored children since he was in the first grade. This year, he is in grade three and science is his favorite subject.

“I want to be a policeman. I want to catch thieves,” says Sophea, who set his sights on being a police officer after criminals stole from his parents when he was younger.

Since 2007, World Vision has joined the church to provide lunch for the children every day and to create a child-friendly space to teach them about hygiene, protection and their rights, as well as to establish a venue for vocational training for young people and parents.

Of her church, Thona says: “It’s not just about food; they also learn about cleanliness and God.”

World Vision team member Samith Him adds: “We want to make sure that children in the community are protected, have enough food to eat, are healthy, and go to school.”


Photo ©2014 Vanndeth Um/World Vision

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