We first met Hang Roeung in early 2015 during our initial research to learn about how we could be helping the poorest elderly in Kampong Chhnang Province in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Maria (the Founder and Director of New Day New Life) was heartbroken to see the terrible situation that Hang Roeung was in. She was living on a broken bed under a tree with just some palm leaf thatching to cover the bed. When she was first interviewed she said that the villagers and children used to call her a dirty monkey because she lived under a tree. After New Day New Life built a house where she could live, and after she had received some nutrition and medical help, she praised God that now she was no longer a monkey but a blessed lady in a new house.
Since that time, Hang Roeung has lived in that house at the New Day New Life Community Center. She has helped with the gardening and growing vegetables, she has learned a skill to weave baskets and she helps when we visit and have events at the New Day New Life Community Center.
Unfortunately, however, during 2017 she lapsed back into drinking and many times when we or Ath Tun visited her we could tell that she had been drinking. The villagers and the village elders also told us of this problem and that she had hurt herself falling down because she was drunk and her rude and aggressive behaviour after drinking. Her drinking had started before we met her because it was a way for her to cover her pain of the loss of her children and her husband and also her depression because of her poverty and her feeling of being an outcast in the community where she lived. Her past drinking (before we met her) was so serious that, when we took her for a medical checkup in Phnom Penh in early 2017, the doctors could not understand how she could possibly still be alive. Her liver and kidneys and lungs were very damaged due to prolong drinking. It should also be noted that the only type of alcohol that the poor can afford to buy is quite potent and quite toxic because of the way it is made and it is often mixed with chemicals.
We confronted her many times that she must stop drinking – especially reminding her that it was putting her health at risk. Always she promised to change but she quickly slipped back into drinking again when no one was around.
Hang Roeun is one of the elderly to whom we give food
At New Day New Life we prayed a lot and sought God’s guidance on how to show love for her but at the same time to let her know that it was not acceptable for her to continue her drinking habits while she was living at the house that had been provided to her at the New Day New Life Community Centre. God gave Maria the insight that the best approach was to get the community and village elders (known as the Sangkat Commune Chief) involved. We asked the villagers not to sell alcohol to her, we asked the children not to buy alcohol for her. The final action was the village elders and police visited her and told her that if she continued drinking that she would be removed from her house.
This approach, with God’s grace in the life of Hang Roeung, was transformative for her. It also helped us to bring the community together and bring awareness to them of a Christ-like approach to dealing with difficult situations.
We are happy to report that Hang Roeung has completely stopped drinking. Her health is improving and she is now helping a lot more at the NDNL Community Centre. Her life is transformed again!
We give God the praise for giving Hang Roeung the courage and strength and conviction she needed and most importantly for healing her and taking away her desire for drinking.