GETTING TO KNOW THE LIFE OF AN ELDERLY HMONG GRANDMA

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Walking into the small bamboo hut where she sought shelter, our nostrils burnt at the stench of rotten food and the musty odor of unwashed clothing. A miserable dimness shrouded the inside of the structure no larger than a storeroom. Her belongings were few – a couple of rusty pots for cooking, a stove that ran on firewood, several pieces of clothing, a Hmong knife and a bag of rice. While her poverty was evidently extreme, Esther (not her real name), an aged woman in her 70’s, greeted us with warm smiles and quickly scrambled to find us stools despite being hunched over. She rushed to put on her traditional Hmong robe – the one she saved for the rare occasions that she had guests visit.

Esther began by lamenting how much she missed us after our previous visit. “Each time all of you leave, I miss seeing your faces. I miss talking with all of you,” she told us in Hmong. To Esther, we were the only persons in a long while who had cared enough to visit. Even her three sons had chosen to neglect her. Despite living nearby in better homes, they refused to give her food or care for her, only giving her a roof over her head to sleep in.

“It is difficult… they don’t love me,” she described the broken relationship with her children. Having no other source of income, Esther struggled to make ends meet. She also told us that she was in poor health – her eyes secreted large amounts of pus, impairing her vision, and she had an excruciating pain in her legs whenever she walked. In spite of these physical disabilities, Esther is just another face in the crowd and left forgotten by most.

Esther shared of how she had considered taking her own life on many occasions. The realization that she mattered to no one and the pain of facing the treacherous effects of poverty day after day were already too much for her to bear. We struggled to find reasons for her to continue living when her life was only filled with suffering. On our way out, we assured her that we would return to visit her.

Looking at us and choking with emotion, she said, “I’m just afraid that when you come back, I would already have passed on.” At that moment, something inside of me broke. We embraced her, knowing that this might be our final chance to do so. As we did, she began to cry. She told us, “In my entire life, no one has ever embraced me this way before, not even my very own children.”

This is a vivid account of a home visit to one of the destitute households served by RADION International. There are 300 more critically needy families living in similar circumstances as Esther. Many of them have spiralled down the path of depression, illness and death with no one by their side. In poor health and lacking the means to make ends meet, elderly folk like Esther remain vulnerable without necessary care and support.

Today, you can make a huge difference in their lives, by supporting them financially through a family sponsorship.

Our Village Care Sponsorship programme directly addresses problems faced by impoverished villagers, providing them with life-saving access to food and water, emotional support, education and emergency medical care.

Show your support for villagers like Esther by either taking up a family sponsorship or sharing this account and spreading the word. To be a part of the sponsorship programme, contact Daryl Tay at daryl.tay@radion-international.org.