The Kong siblings are optimistic. They have set their hearts to overcoming the cycle of poverty and providing their mother Sok Sophan with a home she can call her own.
Their father and mother fell ill. Determined, the siblings pulled from each other’s strength in supporting their sick parents. With proper consent, they helped sell their properties including their small farmland to provide for medication. Having exhausted all means, they decided to bring their parents to Phnom Penh to reach out to a government-owned hospital for free medical check-up. The VCCT test results showed that they were both positive. The couple’s psychological health worsened as they were without proper access to HIV support services. Weakened by her circumstance and by her husband’s death, Sok Sophan felt more ill.
Her children did not allow the worsening situation to greatly affect them. Aware of the implications of HIV, they also underwent HIV tests and found that they were not infected, “we
had more reason to believe that things will get better,” said Sinat, second child among the four who is now a fourth year university student. They began receiving welfare support of 20 US dollars for food and 15 US dollars from Maryknoll which helps them pay for they monthly room rent, as well as schooling for the 2 elder children.
Surrounded by her children’s positive stance, Sok Sophan’s physical and emotional condition improved and she took the opportunity to start a small business of selling grilled fish to two
markets in Phnom Penh. They were able to apply for a small grant which afforded them a second-hand motorbike they used for transporting grilled fish to other buyers. The other younger children were also able to continue with their schooling.
The effects of HIV amongst families are unremitting. In their case, Sok Sophan is currently confined at the hospital fighting her disease and for her dear life. “We could not avoid feeling ashamed at first about our parents’ situation. We were isolated from the rest. However, we realized that we had to accept things as they were, especially when we saw how hard my mother tried. She worked very hard every day to support us for our education. I still feel very lucky.” Sinat said with a smile.
“We are even luckier now to know that our application for a house from Habitat for Humanity will soon come true. We thought we will forever be in a rental house, but life has been very good to us. With our own house, we will be able to save about $40 every month. We look forward to living in our house with our mother.”
*The names in the story are not their real names.