Did you have a favorite “lunch lady” in middle school- the one who was waiting every day with a big smile and a serving spoon of macaroni and cheese to plop on your lunch tray? I remember her well because middle school is tough, and by 11:45 AM, I was in desperate need of that friendly voice greeting me over the chaos of the kitchen and dining noise- over the chaos of life in general. Sometimes she would even use my name, letting me know that I was more than a face in the crowd to her. Those lunch ladies can be really special to the people they serve, and that is true all over the world.
Our Battambang aftercare campus is our flagship program. This campus, now seventeen years old, hosts many dedicated and long term staff, some who have been with Rapha since its inception. Among those who have served for over a decade, is a cook/lunch lady- a small woman with permanent smile lines etched into the contours of her face. Here in the US, she would already be well into retirement, but in Cambodia, she will continue to work for several more years. Not only does she need the work to survive, she loves her job, and the children she serves. Each weekday, she shows up to oversee the cooking of nutritious meals, which are a staple of our programming, and she serves food with a warm smile as the girls hear their names from her lips.This woman, like many of our older staff, is a genocide survivor, who has seen and endured the unimaginable. It is such an honor to serve alongside them.
Recently, our Cambodian Director reached out to me with some news that quickly had tears dropping down my cheeks. Our elderly cook had quietly approached her to say that she knew that COVID had caused financial difficulties and a tight budget for Rapha. “I want to make sure that the girls have a Christmas party,” she said. Pressing $50 into our Director’s hand, she went on to say that she knew it had been such a hard year for our partners, our staff and our girls. She wanted to make sure that the girls were able to experience a celebration of the gift of Jesus. A celebration of hope and joy.
For this Cambodian woman, especially at her stage of life, $50 represents a sacrificial gift that is difficult to comprehend. Although our Director assured her that we would have a Christmas party for the Rapha girls and that she should put this money back into her savings, our little cook would not hear of it. This was a gift deeply considered and prayed over- given with great joy.
Our international staff understand that each gift made by our partners in support of Rapha International is sacrificial- especially in this year of crisis for so many. Throughout this year, our international staff has been praying for YOU, our partners who make this critical work possible. Friends, your generosity is not only changing and saving lives. Your generosity is inspiring more generosity- sometimes from the most unlikely and beautiful places.