WE CAN'T CHANGE THE PAST BUT WE CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE
We dedicate these stories to the people who help make our work possible.
Written by Tim Hupe
Evil will continue to exploit vulnerable people living in poverty and have generational impact but goodness and acts of kindness will have the same, we only need to choose which impact we want to see for generations to come.
I sat with Sarah *not her real name in our neighborhood cafe where she works full-time. Even though Sarah gave me permission to share her experience as a Cambodian migrant there were moments too difficult for her to talk about. At one point I watched as she reflected her past; her eyes filled with tears and her lip quivered as she tried to form a sentence. Eventually she told me “I don’t want to think about my past, it’s sad and there is a lot I don’t like about it, it makes me angry”.
For many of us school began at the age of 5 or 6, and so, probably difficult to remember our first day of school but not for Sarah. She has little difficulty because even though she is 18 years old, her first day of school began only 5 years ago when she was 13.
Sarah was 4 years old when her family decided to migrate to Thailand. To this day, Cambodia is still recovering from its civil war which resulted in a mass genocide. According to the UN, the year Sarah family migrated to Thailand, 31% of the Cambodian population was living below the poverty line and 65% under the age of 30.
Often we forget (or at least I do) that violence and war have generational impact. Because of Cambodia’s civil war, Sarah’s mom never attended school and her dad had very little. Lack of education and a broken country led to the decision to leave Cambodia and start new in Thailand. Sarah’s family began a small business, selling flowers to tourists in the red light district, an understandable option for a family in their circumstance.
Sarah was 12 years old when I first met her— a shy 12-year-old girl selling flowers late at night on an overcrowded road lit up by neon lights. When most kids her age were getting a good night sleep before school the next morning, she along with her younger brother were working. Her work schedule began at 9:00pm and finished at sunrise, just after all the bars and street vendors closed.
In 2013, a short while after meeting Sarah for the first time, Creative Life Foundation began a small education program specifically for her and her siblings because even though her family was making an income, it wasn’t a lot and they were barely making it financially not to mention how unsafe it was for children to be in the red light district.
Within the first year attending our school we saw what positive impact education and a safe environment can make. In addition to schooling and extra curricular activities Sarah was getting something else. CLF’s staff and volunteers, along with her teachers from extra curricular activities, were providing Sarah with positive role models- people who wanted to see her excel and thrive - and that’s exactly what happened! Over the last five years we have seen a significant change in Sarah. The lost and shy spirit that existed in her 5 years ago has been replaced with confidence and purpose.
Today, you can find Sarah working full-time at a coffee shop, using her free time to draw and study. Currently, she is working with our staff towards receiving her U.S. GED.
Written by Tim Hupe, Co-Founder
Creative Life Foundation
The Education Program that we started for 7 children in 2013 proved that education is a powerful tool for breaking cycles of poverty and exploitation and has positively impacted a few families over the last 5 years. Because of this we started a Scholarship Program to help other vulnerable families.
Helping our scholarship students not only graduate high school but attend university is a big deal! In Thailand even a career as a barista at Starbucks requires a college diploma. Currently 5 of our students are attending university. We are committed to our scholarship program’s success and want to build the capacity where one day all of our students have the opportunity to attend college or university because we know this achievement brings the longterm solutions we strive for.
If you're not already, consider sponsoring one of our students, helping us offer a long term solution to generational cycles of poverty and exploitation. Join us and be part of the story.