Sunday, July 19, 2015

Center of Peace July Update by Bophal

Greetings from Cambodia!

As you know, we moved 3 times in 4 months. Once from our old place that often flooded into a new villa. The new villa was great, but we lost a major donor and could not afford the rent so we had to move again after only 3 months.  God blessed COP through a conversation I had with our next door neighbor where Brian and I live.  He said he was willing to rent his place to COP to use for the orphanage.  It was a fair price so we moved in, and had a door put through wall on our top floor so the kids could use the top floor of our house for the cafeteria.  Brian is surviving being neighbors with COP, and it is working out very well for everyone so far.  No flooding yet, either.
After spending the month of June in WA State, I am glad to be back in Cambodia to see the children but was not happy to find the government pushing through a restrictive NGO law which demands all sorts of monthly activity reports and financial statements, etc., as well as shutting down NGOs and organizations that want to have voice in the name of civil society to protest the government's injustices.  The law is pushing Cambodia back into the communist past.
On a happier note, this year, we have 3 kids who will finish high school this year and next month they will their final exams. Of these 3, one will apply to become a government school teacher, one will take a course to become an electrician, and...
Mr. Vichet has enrolled to learn the work of a stylist/beautician at the Katy Korpi Salon, a high-end Salon with a two- year training program for teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Brian’s friend Matthew is the founder and director of this school.  This is a tremendous opportunity for Vichet as there is no training available in Cambodia of such high quality.
Six COP seniors will graduate from college this September. Two will study to become teachers, two will graduate with Communication degrees, one with a Banking degree, and the last one in Administration.
Since 1st grade, Ms. Yari (12) was always number 1 or 2 in her glass. Next year, she will go into junior high along with three other 12-13 year olds from COP.  Yari is very smart, and she hails from Kompong Thom. She tries very hard, and like the other two, are very helpful around COP.
Ms. Dany (14), and Mr. Senin (12) are competing in a major gymnastic competition this week.
During Sunday morning fellowship, we have been discussing sexuality, dating, and relationships with opposite sex. Each Sunday we have lively discussions on these topics, going through YWAM’s Sacred Love series, which Brian’s partner and colleague, Mr. Uon Seila helped write and publish.  Teens have been sharing quite freely and transparently.  It has been a lot of fun and the teens seem to enjoy it and get a lot out of it.
Thanks to Bre and her daughters who sent clothes, and Sophia and her friends from Westminster Chapel who sent hair bows for the children.  Thanks all of you who you made donations for the work of COP.
Wearing Bows
Our financial situation is still not stable since losing a few big donors.  We can cover rent but affording good quality food for the kids is still a challenge.  I haven’t taken a salary in over year, and we had to let our cook go.  My two nieces are working overtime to pick up the slack.  We are operating at $1400/month when we actually need $3000/month to function.  If COP has to shut down because of lack of funding, most of these children will have to drop out of school and work in a factory or collect recyclables to support their poor relatives or whoever will receive them.  Without out COP, many over the years would not have graduated high school, let alone college, or have even made it through 4th grade.  Many would not have a faith in Jesus to sustain them and give them vision for the future.  We have had a quite a few children win gymnastic  competitions, a boy who qualified to run track in China, kids who participated in Boys/Girls Brigade, and many who graduated from high school and college. 

Please consider signing up with a recurring donation for COP through BreakThrough Partners if you believe in the work of COP.

Thanks so much,

Bophal and Brian

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Former Child Water Buffalo Herder, turned Hip Hair Stylist


July 2015 Newsletter

Featuring Mr. Chhout Vichet

Hi, my name is Vichet. I was born in Prasat Sambo, (an area full of temples dating back to 800 A.D.) in Kompong Thom Province in 1997. My parents were mainly rice farmers who owned their own land and over 30 head of Water Buffalo.  I was the 5th out of 6 children.  Some of my first memories were of me and my brothers and sisters herding our buffaloes down to our rice fields where we were cutting back the scrub brush to reclaim more arable land for farming. Our job was to keep an eye on the life stock while they grazed, and our parents worked the fields.  In 2001, my dad was feeling a tree, and it kicked back on him, and ripped open his chest. He could not work for a while, and had to take a break to heal and he had to sell a number of our water buffaloes to pay for medicine and health care, which is always sketchy in the provinces.  In 2002, my mother became ill and she could not walk. She was totally immobilized for the better part of two years. We believed someone put a curse on her as my grandfather left my father some land, as well as other relatives, but when the other relatives sold their land, and did not tell my father, he was upset and gave them a hard time. We thought someone he had offended had hired a witch doctor to put a curse on my mother.  We had to sell more water buffaloes to treat my mother. Also during that time, my father was finishing building our house, and he had to cut the timber deep in the forest. He did not have this skill to cut out the boards himself so he had to hire this out which cost us. Our water buffaloes were quickly running out.  My became angry because my mother was spending water buffaloes too quickly and we were running out of money, so my parents began to argue a lot over finances.  Once, my father came home drunk and tried to beat my mother but my older sister intervened and he pushed her from house and she fell two meters to the ground. In the process, my mother knocked his tooth out. Then he came after us with pestle because we were scared and crying, and told us if we did not stop crying, he would really give us something to cry about.   

By 2005, we finished the house but had only 5 water buffaloes left.

In 2002, I entered kindergarten, and went to school in the morning and herded the 5 Water Buffaloes in the afternoon.  In 2005, we sold 3 more water buffaloes and then bought a cow.  So we ploughed the rice fields with 2 water buffaloes and 1 cow.  I was in charge of the two water buffaloes and my older brother watched the cow but soon, my father farmed them out to some neighbors to watch which freed us up some, and the neighbors would get to keep the first calf.  Since, we were in financial straits, my older sister and brother left high school to work in Phnom Penn. My sister worked in a factory and my older brother began to work as a laborer, carrying fish from dock on the river up onto delivery truck on the road.  In 2007, I would be entering a new school, and that meant traveling a great distance walking on very bad roads, which were almost impassable in the rainy season. I might have been able to make it if I had a bicycle but my parents could not afford to buy me one.  My mother heard from the mother of boy in village who was at the Centre Peace that the Center of Peace was accepting poor children who were not able to continue theirs studies for one reason or another.  My mother was interested so she let the neighbor woman take me to PP to see the Center of Peace and when Ms. Bophal saw me,  adark-skinned, curly headed, small boy, who was stunted in growth, she decided to take me in, even though I was older than what Ms. Bophal would have liked.  It was not easy in the beginning because some of the older kids were rough on us new and younger kids.  Because these problems, my mother asked me if I wanted to come home, but I told her no, I can handle it. Sometimes the rules at COP seemed too strict and food wasn’t that good, but I decided to stay and make a go of it.    

The Christian thing was a bit strange. I never heard of Jesus and church, so in the beginning I just went a long with the show.  Sometimes we had competition for Bible verse memorization, etc., and if we got enough points, we could get a coupon to buy things in COP's store.  So I paid attention and tried to win coupons to buy things.  About six months after I came to COP, I had a really bad headache for two days, so at one point I had to go lie down. I prayed to Jesus, and said, if you are real, can you take away my bad headache?  After my prayer, it just disappeared and I decided to believe.
Center of Peace's New Location
In 2009, I entered the 7th grade and I walked to school everyday with the other COP kids.  Back in the province, there was little incentive to learn or advance to the next grade, but here in the city, among COP kids and other friends, there was positive competition to do well in school.

In 8th grade, during the first semester, I missed 2 days but they said I missed 4 days that semester so they called the COP staff member to come in. I forget to tell the school that COP was moving house, and I couldn’t go to school. They were ready to kick me out. I had some other problems but my chemistry teacher looked after me, and helped keep me on the right track so I was able to pass my courses.

In 10th grade, my sister gave me some money to buy a bicycle so could now ride a bike to school and which was quicker and easier than walking. Now, in 2015, I have two more exams to take before I receive my high school diploma.

Recently, Brian got in touch with his friend Matthew who runs  The Katy Korpi Salon and two-year training program here PP for teens as risk. He had me apply because I was good at cutting hair.  The great news is that  I was accepted into the program and I will learn the beauty trade (this salon and school was founded by Michael Fairfax of Shoreline, WA, and inspired by Carol Korpi of Calvin Presbyterian in Shoreline) and become a stylist someday.  I am bit intimidated as it is an intense program held to International standards.  It is a great opportunity, and a great privilege but with a big learning curve.  On my second day, I was asked to wash the dishes and I as looked for a scrub brush, I grabbed the first thing I could find, an old style shaving brush from the shelf that is used to apply shaving cream to a man’s face, and began to wash the dishes with it until I was shown what the proper use for that brush was. I guess there will be a lot to learn!

Pray with me that I can arise to this occasion.

God Bless,


IF you can donate to see others like Vichet get a chance at life, see the info below:

- Go to the BreakThrough Partners Website (

- Go to “Donate.” Scroll down to recurring donations. Put in $ where asked.
- Find Brian Maher and make a notation that the donation is for Center of Peace.

Or you can mail in a check to:    BreakThrough Partners, 110 Third Ave N, Suite 101
Edmonds, WA.  98020 Phone- 1-425 775-3362

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Story of Bophal

Bophal’s Story  
I was born on the first of in early 1971 in Svay Rieng Province close to the border of Vietnam when the war with America was just winding down and the war with the Khmer Rouge was cranking up.  It was in the midst of the chaos of ear splitting artillery barrages, food scarcity, fire fights, rampant disease and internally displaced people that I entered this world. Being close the border, my two older brothers, my sister and I got the worst of both wars at once. When I was a year old, my father, a soldier of the Khmer Republic, was killed on the battlefield fighting against Khmer Rouge forces. After my father died, my mother took all four of us from Svay Rieng, inland to Kompong Cham because in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took power, we had to flee because if they knew we were the family of a Lon Nol senior officer, we would all have been killed. The Khmer Rouge in other sectors who didn’t know our background, conscripted my mother to work long hours in the hot sun planting and harvesting rice. First, she injured her hip, and then came down with malaria and died in 1977 around her 30th birthday.  My siblings and I went to live with a neighbor lady and it was our job as little children to forage for food in the rice fields for the neighbor woman, mostly catching land crabs. She regularly beat us and accused us of stealing what we foraged for her, and so she also cut back what little food she gave us.  Another woman in our village saw how we were being treated and had compassion on us.  She did not have children of her own, and invited us to come live with her.   

One day her husband heard that the Khmer Rouge knew of our history and wanted to kill us kids, and she secreted us away in the middle of the night to Kratie province.  When we arrived in Kratie we found my aunt and she asked for us to be turned over to her care.  I did not want to leave my adopted mother, I cried and clung to her leg tightly, but at the same time did not want to be left behind as my other siblings agreed to go with my auntie.  When I was with my auntie for a short time, I got very sick and my brother brought me to stay at the hospital run by the Khmer Rouge.  But as soon as we got there, the Vietnamese began shelling the area, and my brother grabbed my hand and we ran for our lives. I remember running so crazily I lost my shoes. I was terrified of the noise, the explosions, the fire and smoke. Artillery shells were erupting all around us. The hospital was hit and burned to the ground.  The whole area was engulfed in flames and chaos from the shelling.  We all headed back to Svay Rieng province and tried to swim across the river but the Vietnamese trained their weapons on us and we returned to travel by the road again. They asked my brother to climb the coconut trees and pick them coconuts to drink. They in turn, let us go and gave us the coconut meat to eat so we had some bit of energy for the rest of the trip.
We made it back to our home town, and lived with my mother’s older sister.  By that time, the Vietnamese (Dec 1978) had just invaded, propping up the People’s Republic of Kampuchea.  At home it was crowded that my uncle took to state orphanages to house and feed us. We walked for days but the centers were all full and I cried and begged my aunt to let me stay with her. She said there was no food feed to me, so I promised not to eat too each much.  This particular traumatic event was the inspiration that caused me to entertain the vision of someday in the future taking care of children who had no home or food to eat. God used this terrifying experience to plant a tiny seed in the life of a small child.
When I was 7, I was enrolled in school as a first-grader and was very happy to have many playmates. Very soon, I realized that I was a good student. Things went well until fourth grade where I had a teacher who hit the students. If we made a mistake he would take a stick and whack our fingers very hard, which happened to me on one unfortunate day. He struck me and I screamed loudly in front of the whole class. I cried and embarrassed myself. His corporal punishment was not out of cruelty, but he was old school and wanted us to do well.  In spite of this incident, I was the best student in the class.  
Before the second exam of the year, I fell off a water buffalo and broke my right hand and I did not go for a school for two weeks so I didn’t get to take my exam and I had to repeat my fourth year. I was very upset that I had to repeat the year.
I finished my secondary education and when the time came, I passed the exam to enter high school, but my entrance exam grade was low so I was not allowed to enroll. It was by now 1989, and I was 18 years old and extremely discouraged that I couldn’t enroll in high school so I was put in charge of herding water buffalo. I had lots of time to think and reflect on nature, etc., and my thoughts came around to; “Did someone create all this?” I really wondered about where the things of nature came from.
When I failed the exam, I went to live with my oldest brother so I could learn English. My brother paid for my English but during the day I would do all the house work and yard work. When I returned from school exhausted and hungry, his wife, who resented the fact my brother paid for my classes, would not save me any food. I had to secretly set aside some food for myself in the morning before I went to work or I would have starved.  What little I had to eat in the morning would have to see me through the whole day.
After a few months, my second older brother saw that I wasn’t in school, so he brought me to Phnom Penh to learn how to sew.  But instead, I become their house help but asked him if I could go learn English.  My brother wasn’t home much, as he was soldiering in Kompong Som. I was left in the hands of his abusive mother in law and wife. Soon then I found a job working in a government printing house to pay for my English lessons but got ink poisoning on my thumb and had to stop.  I still suffered terrible abuse my brother’s wife because she was angry with my brother for being away for so long at times.  Sometimes she would dump rice on my head and chase me with a knife, trying to stab me. I ran through the neighborhood, jumping fences, and doing whatever I could do to get away from her.
One day in 1990, the mother in law went missing for a day and at night she turned up with my aunt, Pastor Im Sithan. She asked Pastor Sithan to help my brother’s wife who seemed to be suffering from the demonic or psychotic episode. My aunt led church members to pray, sing hymns, etc., over her.  When this happened, it seemed to soothe her. Two weeks later, I went to see my aunt the pastor.  I asked her the same questions I asked when I was tending the water buffalo, “Who created the whole world?” Her husband said out loud, “What a great question!” They opened the Bible to Genesis 1:1 and I read it. They explained to me in a simple way that God created the world, and I told them about my situation and the questions I had as a young girl.  I asked them if I could be in the Jesus faith, and they led me to pray the sinner’s prayer.  That same week, I heard someone singing a hymn, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  I listened and began singing along to the song.  Then I heard a voice calling my name, I ran to ask my cousin if she called me.  No, no one called you. I heard someone call my voice three times, and I kept asking her who calling me, but they began to call me crazy.  I told my aunt (the pastor) and her husband about this and they in turn told me about the story of Samuel and told me that I probably really did hear the voice of God calling out my name.  This made me think, “Wow, God really is with me and near me and is comforting me.”  They gave me a Bible to read, and so I read Psalms and memorized the 23rd Psalm.  Before I believed, my brother’s wife called me to sleep on the porch with her where it was cooler. During the night I suddenly woke up because she was beating me and choking me with all her strength, but after I believed when she called me to sleep near her, I did not go, but instead prayed through the 23rd Psalm.  When she heard me recite the psalm, she would say, “Never mind, keep that Jesus stuff away from me.”  I began to pray a lot during that time and soon my unstable sister in law was sent to a psychiatric center, and then I was able to begin attending church where I made many new friends. That was 1991, and I was baptized that year. 

At church, I met Ms. Alli Blair who seemed to know my name and take an interest in me. How did she know who I was?  She told me she heard about me from my relatives. She asked me if I wanted to come be her house helper.  I said, “Yes, I do.”  After church she gave me the tour of her place and showed me what I was expected to do. She asked me, “Do you need a week to think about it?”  I told her, “No, I will start tomorrow at first light.” Alli was so kind to me, and even offered to share her meal time with me.  Every meal she would set a place for me and when I saw that, it brought tears to my eyes, as rarely had anyone valued me in the least over all the years.  She treated me like sister and listened to all my heart aches and cried when she heard about all I had gone through. She would also teach my friend Ms. Vuthy and I the bible once a week. Once when I had typhoid fever, I was so sick and wanted to work but Alli made me rest. She came to check on me from work every hour, and made sure I had what I needed.  
In 1993, she asked me to come work with her at World Vision but I told her about the vision had since I was a young girl, that I wanted to work with children at risk so she led me to World Concern where I was trained to be a trainer of trainers for Sunday School teachers.   I was trained by WC at their day care center for a year, and then Alli left to serve in Rwanda. When Alli left, I went to live with Marianne Stattin of World Concern.  These two women showed me what warmth, care and love really were because I never really experienced such concern and care before from anyone.
Marianne befriended me, mentored and coached me in my personal and professional life. She took care of me when I got sick.  I was with her from about 5 months until I moved into the day care center with a girlfriend. I worked there from 1994 to 2000.

In 1991, there was a Cambodian man who was interested in me and I was open to considering him as a future husband but he strung me along for almost ten years.  In 2001, he wanted to get engaged but I heard some disturbing things about him, so I told him we were done.
In 2000, World Concern discontinued the project and but gave me some equipment and left over funding. We began with 15 kids and the parents paid $15 per child per month and they received day care and two meals.  In 2001, we started Center of Peace with 15 children at risk who needed refuge from domestic violence, or whose mothers were widowed and could not care for them.
In the beginning, I just had my older sister to support me morally and physically. We had many needs during that time but I was happy that my vision was beginning to take shape and in the second year, we were providing for 50 children in recovery. Our budget was next to nothing and I had to sell all my jewelry to keep us going. We had one or two foreigners who helped keep our doors open, and Sister Kiko, a Japanese missionary was one of those who helped us from right the beginning up until now.
In 2003, I was married to Kosal. On the day of our honeymoon, there was a big misunderstanding concerning our trip which put a big wedge between us that could never be healed.  It was over even before it began.  We struggled together for a year and half, and in 2006 he left. We signed the certificate of divorce in 2007.  After that I was seriously discouraged by this turn of events and did not accept any training invitations like I normally did and cut myself off from the larger Christian community and my friends and family.  Soon my faith began to wane.  It was a rough few years for me.  In fact, it was a rough life.
As Kosal left in 2006, I adopted Johnnathan when he was one year old.  His grandfather brought him to the center and said he’d drop him off for a week but he never came back for him.  Johnnathan had been physically abused and had bruises and contusions on his face and body so I agreed to take him into my personal care.  I tried to contact his family but the grandfather gave me a false address so here he is, with us until this day.
I got my high school diploma 2006 and I immediately started a B.S. in Human Resources and finished that degree in 2010. The next year, 2007, was when I was visiting Svay Rieng and one of our staff saw a mother trying to bury a tiny infant alive, and they stopped the women in the act, saving the baby from a imminent death.  I took that baby girl and gave her the name Pich. She was only a week old when I adopted her.
Also during that time, I began to attend church again and that next year I enrolled in a number of short courses, but a very significant event in my life was my enrollment in Peace Bridges, a local NGO started by an Australian expat where I learned family mediation. It helped me to process much of the trauma of my past, and brought healing to my heart and soul. I was grateful to God for Peace Bridges, especially learning how to listen and trust another (a couple mentors) with the deepest parts of my soul.
After things settled down and I began to feel lighter in spirit, and no longer hated men, I met Brian through pastor Seila. Brian was a friend of my many relatives who worked at World Vision, especially Aunt Molly.  Though I saw him in 1990 at my house with my aunt, we only met officially in 1996 when he invited me to teach children at the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia. He often invited me to teach at youth camps, youth seminars, and the Diamond Program Leadership course Level 2 , but we never really talked until the day Seila re-introduced us late in 2011.  We dated about two years, and were engaged on December 22nd 2012.
When I enrolled in the Diamond Project Leadership training offered by Dove and finished at the top of my class.  This course helped encourage my faith and helped me process my whole life by having me make a time-line during our Focused Living Block. This enabled me to see how God shaped me in a unique way through all the hardship in my life to make me exactly the person I am today, with the talent and capacity to love and nurture children at risk. Looking at his work in my past shows me that he will continue this good work in me into the future in good times and bad.  DP also arranged for us to have a personal quiet retreat for few hours which opened up a whole new window of hearing God’s voice.  Another great impact on my life was field work where we went to serve and do projects in squatter villages where the people had next to nothing. They were evicted from their homes and dumped in some rice fields.  It helped me realize that there were others who maybe have had it worse than me, and I stopped blaming God for having taken my parents away, having been born in the midst of a regional war, and for being sick and abused by many adult figures, etc. Thank God for all the people he brought into my life, for helping me see my vision fulfilled, and for healing in my soul.
On December 7th, 2013, Brian and I were married in a semi-traditional Khmer Wedding ceremony that incorporated key parts of typical Christian ceremony. It was purely religious ceremony. Everything was nearly perfect and we had a nice honeymoon in a nearby hotel.  On June 14th, 2014 we were married again in Bellevue, WA, in civil ceremony, making our union legal in both the US and Cambodia.  I am now in the US working on permanent resident status and will return to Cambodia in October of 2014.

Yos Bophal,

Times When God's Grace finds the Poorest of the Poor


Maher Gecko Tales
June 2015

Mr.Chanta is in the weekly men’s group I lead and he told us his personal life story last week. I asked for permission to share it. I hope you are able read the whole story as recorded below

Hi, I’m is Chantha, and I’m 23 years old. I was born in the same village as my father, which is called “Rokha in the most southern part of Kompong Thom province in early 1992. He was born in the village proper, but I was born on the far side of the village near the mouth of a pond called Bung Consign.

Kompong Thom was always a hotspot for Khmer Rouge, and in 1994 there was fighting in the Bung Consign area and my parents and I fled.  My mother told me that as my father fled, he held me under one arm while firing an automatic rifle back at the Khmer Rouge. We traveled north with the intent to seek refuge at the house of my grandmother (on my mother’s side), which is almost 100 kilometers or so away, north of the provincial city of Kompong Thom. My grandmother lived in the Prasat Sambo District that has many ancient temples, dating back to 800 B.C.  We eventually reached Grandma who lived in the village of Tuk Andong, but she would not let us stay with her because she hated my father.  So my father journeyed back to Rokha to look for work and my mother and I slept under a mango tree. My grandmother hated me because I was my father’s son and hated my mother because she married him.  My mother built us a makeshift shelter out of a blue tarp and we lived there for two or three months. We had no rice, and no cooking utensils but my mother’s younger sister was able to steal just enough utensils and rice for us to live on.  Because my mother was destitute, she was going to sell me to a Cham (Ethnic Islamic Group) family who had no children. I was to be sold for 15 Dumlung (1994), but my father’s mother heard of it and would not allow it.

When my dad earned enough money, he came back and bought a piece of land and built a rather small house, just across the river from Grandma. My dad eked out a living doing odd jobs, planting rice, or selling his labor to construction outfits. He saved a bit of money and bought a few more parcels of farmland for growing rice.  When my brother Bonourng was 2 months old, they planted corn and made enough money to buy what they needed to produce traditional Khmer wine. That was very lucrative but then my father started drinking up the profits. This caused arguments and beatings, then one day my father came home with a gun to shoot my mother. My mother, my baby brother and I huddled together crying loudly until the villagers came and stopped my father.  So my father took me back to Bung Consign (southern K.Thom) and there he made a living catching eels to sell.  As a very young boy (5), I became a duck herder and I made a few pennies each day. I made sure the ducks got to the pond and then back to their pens.  Even though I had a bit of pocket change, there was nothing to eat at home because grandmother (father’s mother) was so poor. Sometimes we had rice, other times we had the only the bulbs of native grasses growing nearby.  I once remember my uncle eating his fill of rice, and not even bothering to save the least bit for me when my stomach so ached with hunger. When I had nothing to eat, I would go to the well and pick apart pieces of the disintegrating clay bricks that surrounded that well and mix it with water and eat it.
I also ate pieces of Date palm branches. 

I was living in the village with my relatives while my father was staying on the other side of the village catching eels. I rarely saw him.  Every 2 or 3 months he would come back to our side of the village to visit us. He would bring fish and eels to sell in the village.  He used to catch significant amounts and when he finally saved enough, he took me back to my mother up north, and they settled their differences. 

Our living situation improved some, but our house was still made of date palm fronds.  After being back in Tek Andong for a while, my sister was born (1997).  When she was 5 or 6 months our Grandma was extremely unhappy. She took the piece of land she gave my mother back because she didn’t want my mother in the village close to her.  My parents petitioned the village chief but grandma had already bribed the chief in anticipation, and the chief only ended up giving us a small sliver of land to live on.  Because my grandmother had to give up some of her land, this meant she lost a lot of face in the village, and so she poisoned some of the ground around the tender bamboo shoot we normally eat. When my parents came back from the rice fields, my father cut out tender part of some bamboo shoots and had my mother make soup.  When she was ready to serve it to us, a relative rushed in to warn us not to eat the soup. “Don’t eat the bamboo shoots, “she said, and we learned how she had planned to kill us.

My mother threw it all away and made a new batch of soup.  After that, our Grandmother stopped harassing us but my father starting drinking heavily again. He then became ill, and went to the provincial city to get treatment.  He spent all our money on treatment, and sold most of our land to pay the doctors.  He also owed everyone in the village money.  When he got well, he went to the Thai border to seek work as a laborer, and he worked as an illegal in Thailand as a construction worker.  He worked there for 2 years before he came home.  When he came home, he paid his biggest debts off, just owing a little here and there.  After having returned from Thailand, he began dealing in the buying and selling piglets, which he transported over many kilos on the back of his bicycle.  When that got old, he went back to rice farming.

One day my mother went to a wedding reception in another village and my dad went to work the rice fields. He told me to stay home and watch my younger siblings, and not to play near the pond.  I was 7 at the time.  When he left, my younger brother, some friends and I sneaked off to the pond to catch fish (mud fishing). We left our little sister who was just two years old, home alone. When my father returned from working the fields, he could not seem to find hide or hair of us, just our baby sister who, remarkably, was still alive.  He carried her on his shoulders as he looked for us. He knew exactly where we would be and sure enough, he found us mud fishing. He was enraged and shouted to us to say put.  He caught my younger brother and whipped him good, but I ran away and when he finally caught me, he beat me good with a date palm branch until I was unconscious. He dragged me by the feet from the pond to our house and put me on the bed. He built a bed of coals and put them under my bed (that is what they do when someone is unconscious).  When I came to, he beat me again.  He forced me to bow prostrate at his feet, and beg his forgiveness for disobeying him.

Later that year, I entered first grade.  I remember one day after school when we were eating as a family, and my parents finished first. My sister and I were still eating and there was one piece of meat left and I grabbed it. My sister apparently wanted it just as badly because she hit my hand and the chunk of meat dropped onto the mat. She tried to get it, but I got it first and gobbled it up. She then proceeded to beat me around the head with the ladle.  It hurt so much that I hit her on the head with my knuckles and she screamed bloody murder. My father came running in and punched me twice in the face and kicked me twice in the back. I passed out and when I came to, I woke up in my aunt’ s house with an I.V. drip.  When I asked why I was at my aunt’s house, she said your Parents split up again. On top of being injured by the beating, I immediately contracted dengue fever and went through many many bags of I.V. drip.  Not long after, my parents soon got back together, once again. On my sick bed, my father would bring me pigeon rice soup every day.  He took down our old house and rebuilt it, but it was still made out of palm fronds. When I got better, he brought us all to the new house. I got sick once again and was sent to the provincial hospital.  My parents had no money at all left over from my medical expenses and borrowed money from my aunt. Soon we were able to live a bit better because my mother got a job teaching kindergarten at the public school for $30/month.

One day when I was about 14 year old, an itinerant Evangelist by the name of Vuthea came to our village and led some kids club for about 3 days. He taught English, the bible and prepared curry dishes for meal times.  Since we had no money, I wasn’t going to school at the time, so he suggested I go to PP to school. He knew a place where I could stay.  My mother, thrilled with the idea of having one less mouth to feed, asked him to take me with her, but I didn’t want to go so they told me the center where they would send me had a big area to play, a swimming pool, and a helicopter to take us sight seeing.  When I heard that, I decided to go.   When I arrived in 2006, I saw that the Center was just a small place.  When I met the director of the Center, Teacher Bophal, I asked her where the swimming pool and helicopter were.  She had no idea what I was talking about.  I then asked the older children where the pool was, and they told me to wait a few more months until the rainy season came, then there would be a pool at Centre of Peace. I was mad at my mother for telling me such a horrendous lie, and begged her to let me come home but she would not take me back so I decided to stay and after a few months, began to enjoy the fellowship and friendship with other kids, the games, and I really loved it when we had visitors from overseas who brought us things, and led us in games and planned lots of other fun things for us to do. I began to forget about missing home.  It wasn’t easy at Centre of Peace in the beginning because Teacher Bophal did not have enough funding for decent food. When it flooded, it was difficult to use the toilet facilities.  At home, when was hungry, I could at least go to the forest to pick fruit. But, then again, at Centre of Peace I could get an education, and be around good people, so I could have a good future unlike most of the children back in my village who will most likely have to survive by selling their labor in construction work in Thailand.

At the end of 2006, I came down with some sort of polio. Up to this point, I never had a single vaccination for anything. My right leg and arm began to shrivel up.  I could not walk, and I could not even hold a spoon to eat rice soup. Teacher Bophal took me to Kanthata Bopha’s Children’s hospital where I stayed there for a week.  The doctors took a big syringe and stuck it in my back to take out the fluid in order to test it. Most people would have screamed. I didn’t feel a thing. After they tested the fluid, they said I would never walk again. Vaneth, one of my female peers at the center offered to get me a wheel chair from her children’s club where volunteered.  As they got ready to bring it, Nek Kru Bophal, her friends, colleagues, and all the kids at COP fasted and prayed for me and within a few weeks, I was able to walk again and do normal things.  I am not 100% normal, but I can play soccer on the COP team and compete against other teams, ride my bike, walk and do most things everyone else can do.

I was 14 when I arrived at Centre of Peace, and I immediately entered the 7th grade. I walked to school from then until 12th grade.  I graduated from high school and now I am in university and I am studying Public Administration, and I am in my second year.  I am doing better in college than I had done in high school.  When I graduate, I want to work for the government, which will afford me some free time to help Centre of Peace or help other projects that help the poor in the community.  If I didn’t come to COP to study so many years ago, I would either be working construction in Thailand or working as an industrial fisherman on a rig in the Gulf of Thailand.  When I finish my studies, get a job, and save enough money, I hope to find a good wife to marry and have some children. 

Please consider a donation to Center or Peace or for our family. We want to continue help bring a quality life to people who suffer.  Thanks, Brian and Bophal

How to donate:

Go to the BreakThrough Partners Website (

·       Go to “Donate.” Scroll down to recurring donations. Put in $ where asked.
·       See "Brian Maher” and select my name. In the description box designate to COP or to Brian Maher.

Or you can mail in a check to:      BreakThrough Partners
110 Third Ave N, Suite 101, Edmonds, WA.  98020 Phone- 1-425 775-3362
Dove Dating Seminar for Youth