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Grandma Riel (Villager)

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My name is Riel. I am 64 years old. I live with my 13-year-old grandson, Sokhun, in Roka village. There were seven more family members that lived with us until four months ago. But six of them (Sokhun's parents and four of his siblings, ages 3, 7, 10 and 18) moved to Thailand since we could not find enough food here. One sibling, a brother, lives with another family and works for that family. I heard that Sokhun's parents found a job in Thailand as gardeners, but they are not making enough to even feed the four children that are with them. So, Sokhun and I continue to not have enough to eat. It is difficult for Sokhun's parents and siblings to earn a high salary in Thailand because they went there illegally.

Sokhun is a kind boy. He and I go catch frogs everyday. On most days we catch enough so that I can sell them to people in my village. But usually I earn only about 5000 rials (1.25 USD) a day which is not enough to buy food for the two of us. Other than frogs, we also catch fish, snails, and morning glory.

I want to find work, but I am too weak because I have HIV. You may know that Roka became a little bit famous a few years ago because many foreigners found out that our local doctor was using dirty needles to treat the sick, including me, and he caused more than 300 people to contract HIV. I thought he was a kind man because he sometimes gave me medicine for free. But when I found out that he caused me to have HIV and 300 more people, I was very angry and sad. I became so hopeless, but I think he just did not have enough education.

Now there is a hospital in Battambang that I go to every month to get free HIV medicine, so I think I will survive. But I am always so tired and cannot work. Many of my villagers face similar issues.

A few years ago, when many of us found out we had HIV, many foreigners came to take photographs and bring us rice. But now, nobody comes.  

I am very thankful that TASSEL is helping my grandson. TASSEL now sends a tuk-tuk to Roka and brings my grandson and 30 other children from our village to the TASSEL School in Rattinak, which is almost one hour away. My grandson can now learn English. Not only this, but TASSEL also gives us rice and money for food because my grandson no longer has time to collect frogs for me to sell.

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