Cultural Differences Can Be So Delicious

Sometimes you hear a story that simply bears repeating.  I can’t help but chuckle every time I think of this exchange.

Most of the young students here at Cambodian Children’s Fund have sponsors in the West.  Scott Neeson, the Founder, is very clear that if you sponsor a child it is not just about the money.  It’s not simply mail in your check for a few hundred dollars, feel good and forget about it.

No, Scott encourages (which is more like a command delivered with smile) each sponsor to create a real relationship with their sponsored child and communicate often through email.

After just a few weeks I have my own understanding of the importance of the sponsor relationship.  A huge part of what the children at CCF learn is that they are valuable beyond measure and uniquely talented.  It really is a privilege and a joy to know them.  And sponsors have the opportunity to experience the joy of being a part of their lives and sharing in the unbounded love and affection of these children.  It is a privilege that is not to be taken lightly.

But I digress…

The regular communication between sponsor and child is done through email.  There are several translators on staff to read the emails to the younger children who are not yet fluent in English and then translate the child’s response.

At one point a sponsor wrote to their sponsored little boy telling them about their family and included a picture of their Labrador Retriever.

Although I admire all the work done in the Western cultures to save, protect and take care of pet dogs and cats.  My little experience in Africa and now in Cambodia confirms that this cultural tradition of the “pet as part of the family” – the dog with its weekly trip to the puppy saloon for a bath and bow, the special organic mix of pet foods, the money spent for cushy little puppy and kitty beds, rhinestone leashes and chew toys and the animals curled up sleeping on Ralph Lauren sheets at the foot of the master bed does not translate to developing nations.

But I digress again…

In any case, the child receives this lovely upbeat and friendly email from their sponsor, complete with photo of “Woofy” and the sincere question.  “Do you have a pet dog?”

The child responds simply as the translator types in English.

“I had a pet dog once.  But my grandparents ate him.  They said he was delicious.  But I miss him.”

Footnote:  Definition of “Lucky Dog” – I always thought the definition of Lucky Dog was a dog growing up in a Beach House in Malibu California.  Here in Cambodia, “Lucky Dog” is any dog that lives in the city.  Apparently country dogs are most likely to end up on Grandma and Grandpa’s dinner table.

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