By Robert Carmichael
When 12-year-old Sady was left at an orphanage a decade ago in the slow-paced riverside city of Battambang in western Cambodia, it was not because her parents had died; it was because they were poor.
At that time around half of Cambodia’s population lived below the poverty line. Although the proportion has more than halved since, 3 million people still live in poverty.
Sady and her mother (facing back) speak with Ms. Tara Winkler (left) and a staff member of CCT© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/ Robert Carmichael
Unable to take care of their nine children, Sady’s parents believed putting her and her younger brother in an orphanage would allow them to attend school and attain a better life. It is a common misconception in Cambodia.
“I remember having this conversation sitting outside with my dad, and him saying: ‘Try to study. I don’t have anything to give you except bringing you here – that is my only gift’,” Sady says, her eyes filling with tears.
The orphanage became her home for two years.