Here’s a story from Miracle Foundation’s global work. Miracle Foundation Youth for Social Impact project is a global initiative to find and encourage young leaders. Focusing on youth who have experienced the challenge of family separation, it supports ideas and voices that will have an impact in their local communities, helping to improve the lives of vulnerable children.
Sinet is a vivacious young adult who lives in Cambodia. She has a big laugh and an infectious smile that make her natural enthusiasm all the more endearing. Her Instagram page is an ever-changing gallery of hairstyles and colors, reflecting an adventurous spirit and a fun sense of style. In short, she seems happy and self-confident—which is more than a little miraculous considering the painful past she’s lived through.
She was raised in extreme poverty until her parents died and she was placed along with her three siblings in an orphanage. She was ten years old at the time.
Whatever bleak, dangerous stereotypes you may hold concerning rural Indian orphanages, Sinet’s experience was probably worse. She was treated as a slave, forced to work in the orphanage rice fields from 4 AM until she was exhausted. She remembers being hungry all the time…catching crabs at the river and eating them raw…eating wild mice to survive.
She remembers when volunteers would visit, offering to buy the children things they might need. But any gifts like shoes or new clothes would only be enjoyed for as long as the volunteers stayed. Once they left, the staff would gather the gifts up and resell them back to the shopkeepers, pocketing all the money.
And there was abuse. Beatings for anyone trying to escape. Sexual assaults followed by death threats should a child dare to tell on the vicious orphanage director.
How do you foster a natural enthusiasm in the face of such cruelty?
Thankfully, after six years, Sinet was rescued by an organization called CCT (Cambodian Children’s Trust) and her world started to open up again.
We met her when she served as an advisor to Miracle Foundation at our Rockefeller global meeting in Bellagio, Italy. Her insight and lived experience were invaluable resources. She now sits on the Board of CCT and is part of their Communications team, hosting videos in the field. You can see her in action HERE
And soon, she’ll be using our Youth for Social Impact grant money to develop a podcast, supporting other former orphans who have left institutional care. Her dream is to expand her “care leavers” support network in her hometown, ensuring their transition back into the world is as smooth as possible.