Australian Artist and loving mother ‘Laleh Mohmedi’ has a vision to encourage young children to eat healthily through her creative food art and Instagram account: @jacobs_food_diaries.
With a passion for nutrition and the wellbeing of children around the world, Laleh is proudly partnering with REACH; she wants to help us feed our disadvantaged kids and families while endorsing and promoting our cause far and wide.
To kick-start our partnership Laleh has created an unbelievable art-work of our oldest beneficiary.
As a part of her ‘Humans of the World’ series, Laleh has made this special creation from mashed potato dyed with cocoa powder, bread, black pancake, Quinoa seeds, carrots, brown rice; we are astounded by how it turned out:
Humans of the World, Series 2, ‘NGOUN CCHJEY’ (Cambodian Grandfather), By Laleh Mohmedi.
The old saying goes that to fully understand the life experiences of a person, walk a mile in their shoes. These particular weathered shoes belong to a 98-year-old survivor of the Cambodian war: ‘Ngoun Cchjey’.
THIS IS HIS STORY…
1975, was the year that changed Cambodia forever, and the year that Ngoun purchased the exact sandals that sit by his humble bedside today, made out of car tyres, these shoes are still intact four decades later.
This is the story of just ONE individual. A story that mirrors millions of resilient Cambodians who, against the odds, survived through a devastating genocide.
As a result of the civil war, the communist Khmer Rouge regime seized power of the entire country between 1975 and 1979. The reigning officer Pol Pot set about trying to radicalise Cambodia into a “Year Zero” agrarian society, massacring over 2 million educated individuals. Four long years of concentration camps, inhumane torture and starvation was the catalyst of the genocide that has shaped Cambodia’s shocking modern history.
Only forty years have passed, and these inspirational children of the war are still struggling to rebuild their lives.
BUT NGUON CCHJEY IS A SURVIVOR.
At 98 years old, he sits frailly on his wooden bed under his tin shack roof, speaking gently with a kind smile on his face.
He told us how he remembered peaceful days before the war and spoke of his happy marriage to his wife and their 8 children. Growing up, Nguon studied at the pagoda and went on to become a monk for a couple of years, practising and teaching the calm Buddhist religion.
At the time the war broke out, Ngoun was already too old to be a soldier, but sadly, this was not the case for his 5 sons. Each one of his sons was brought to serve as soldiers in the war, unfortunately, not one of them are able to tell their own story today. Nguons’ 5 sons were amongst the millions that were executed amidst the brutality.
Only his 3 daughters survived, but not without their own scars and traumas of fighting in the war. After his devastating loss, Nguon did his best raising his 3 daughters with his devoted wife. Together this inspiring couple lived through war and famine; sadly, his loving wife passed away just last year at the age of 100 years old. His daughters went on to have their own families, and now, Nguon is a proud grandfather of over 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The life for this family has been far from easy, day by day, living hand to mouth, Ngoun and 10 of his family members now reside in a derelict shack surrounded by wastewater. This is a far cry from what this hard-working grandfather envisaged for his family, it breaks our heart as he deserves so much more.
It is incomprehensible for any of us to begin to imagine walking this difficult journey. We know that we cannot change the past, but we are committed to paving the path for a better future.
In February this year, we proudly enrolled Ngoun’s great-granddaughter into our Education program, providing him and his family access to all of our services such as emergency health care, education, outreach support, and emergency relief food packages.
No person deserves to suffer through such trauma, but with the genocide being so recent, intergenerational PTSD is still being passed on. This is why REACH Siem Reap is dedicated to working alongside entire families.
REACH’S mission is to provide integrated programs for impoverished Cambodian children to become change-makers within their community, preparing them with life-skills to gain fair employment and to break longstanding cycles of generational poverty within their family.
With no social systems in place for retirement, it is the responsibility of the younger generations to provide for their elders. Nguons great-granddaughter is just one of the 200+ children that attend REACH… there are so many other stories of resilience.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the mandated school closures, we have re-strategised our programs and instead poured our resources into emergency food relief. This is to combat the widespread risk of starvation that poses a huge threat to the babies, children, mothers, fathers and grandparents of REACH.
With aligned visions to provide impoverished families such as Nguon’s with nutritious food and all of our students with daily school meals, we are beyond excited for our collaboration with Laleh and are incredibly grateful that she wants to help us feed and REACH vulnerable children and families in need.
Once borders open up, Laleh will be flying over to create food art with our kids and share her passion for nutritious food with our team. We cannot believe our luck – Laleh is a superstar, we are extremely grateful for her big heart and are thankful that she is thinking of food security for our children and families during this critical time.
To help Laleh feed our kids in Cambodia, please click here to donate to ‘Jacobs Food Drive’ campaign.
Tax-deductible receipts are available for both Australian and American donors.
Share, comment, like and help us spread the word… This is the beginning of something very special.