The Terrors of Poverty

There is a woman near to my heart, her name is Chan; she is 33 and a mother to five. While she was pregnant with her fifth, she gently shared she wasn’t sure if her husband knew he had another on the way. Her new baby boy is now 4 months old. He has endured severe illness and been displaced from his home twice. Chan's husband has never stared into this sweet baby’s eyes, he hasn’t returned to his family, and they’re presently living amidst the extreme terrors of poverty. 

end-it-chan

It was a few months back, I was working here in the US and received a call from Leeta, our Operations Manager in Cambodia. When I answered the phone I heard her weeping; my heart sank in fear. Leeta shared she needed help, wisdom, and prayer. She continued to speak and shared a story of terror. Chan’s brother had returned from Thailand where he was away working. He walked into her home, filled with five small children, and held them all up at knife point. He placed a knife to Chan’s throat and told them to get out. He screamed, he told them their house was now his, and they are to never return. 

Leeta shared a story of terror, one I felt inept to process or speak to. Chan, a young mother of five, was the epitome of desperation as she sat the world away from me homeless and hopeless. I hung my head as tears flooded my eyes. My emotion escalated and I gasped for air. Leeta and I’s common ground was nothing but painful, desperate heartache from two sides of this globe.

We sat together in the deep reality of what it means to combat poverty; of what it means to claim a story of hope amidst a battleground filled with hopelessness.  

As the days passed, Chan and her children settled into the home of a villager who kindly brought them in. Days later, Chan’s brother returned to Thailand and they made their way back to their home; reclaiming the very soul their desperation was pried upon. My heart found rest in knowing they were safe but wrestled with the reality of desperation. My heart continued to pose the question; what is the long-term solution to such vulnerability? 

For a few weeks, there was peace. Leeta called to share that the women of Landmine Design had requested to use one of their work days to travel to Chan’s home together to visit her family, to clean, and to gather in love. Tears that were once filled with sorrow were for just a moment, filled with joy. To create community, to live selflessly, to build one another up - visions that were once a dream where a beautiful reality in this act. Landmine Design was becoming a family. 

A few weeks later, I received another call. 

On the other line, Leeta shared that Chan’s brother had returned to the village, and highly intoxicated, burnt their home to the ground. Chan and her five small children ran for their very lives. 

Tears of sorrow flooded back. 

Chan's current home in the Minefield Village (2015)

Chan's current home in the Minefield Village (2015)

Vulnerability pried upon. Desperation resulting in homelessness. Feelings of defeat. This is the cycle of poverty. This is the very battle we’re up against. This is what we witness on the front lines. And you know what oftentimes follows suit? Slavery. With no opportunity or places to turn, the industry of human slavery prevails amidst these stories of terror - when mothers are left with no choice but to subject themselves to trafficked borders, to sell their children, or sell themselves as they fight for their every breath. 

Chan’s story is one of heartache, heartache marking her past as we relentlessly claim a new future. Because that’s what we do, we cling to the belief that we can change her life and the lives of her children - even when logic says otherwise. 

Chan and her children are still displaced, living with her mother in law. They possess little to nothing of their own. But you know what’s different? Chan’s countenance. Chan is different - as a mother, leader, and family member of Landmine Design. Chan is actively claiming restoration in her spirit and its multiplying itself through her days. Through a dignified income, feelings of belonging, and the first chance she’s ever had to be educated; her children may be saved. Her worth may become known. Her story may be made new. 

Chan, right before giving birth to her baby boy.

Chan, right before giving birth to her baby boy.

At Landmine Design we rarely operate from a place of logic, we do not claim to know the answers, but we fight relentlessly towards a new story anyways. Chan and her five small children rely on every bead rolled, on every piece of jewelry handmade for you - and slowly but surely, it’s writing a story we’re proud of. Chan’s husband has still never met his new son, he has never witnessed the newfound strength of his wife, and he has never returned. Chan however, is laying the very foundation of a new story altogether. This foundation is one of self worth and opportunity. And what if all the women of Cambodia understood their worth and given opportunity?

At Landmine Design, this is what we fight for. At Landmine Design we see the value of every woman and fight on her behalf - we fight for a story of dignity where there was once vulnerability. We say every woman matters and together, we work relentlessly to change the life of just one more woman, day by day. Our hope is one day we look up and see a sea of women who have come to understand their worth; a sea of women setting out to claim a new story for their nation; a new story for the generation to come. Chan is a personal hero of mine; a woman that has survived the terrors of poverty and shown me what it means to fight. Chan has taught me strength.  

Chan and her sweet baby boy in Landmine Design Headquarters

Chan and her sweet baby boy in Landmine Design Headquarters