A New Hope for Cambodian Children
Written + Researched by Dawn Garcia | Photographs + Additional Research by Martin Gaeta
In the heart of Beverly Hills just a stone throw away from Rodeo Drive, an event is happening that is changing the lives of children in Cambodia living with HIV/AIDS. A couple, John and Kathy Tucker have sold every piece of property they own, decided to live their lives simply in order to build a 20-acre orphanage – New Hope – offering solace, medical care, education, and most importantly, love to the children living with HIV/AIDS.
The minute you walk into the Mouche Gallery, you are greeted with iconic art, smiling faces, and a table awaiting donations and toys. The walls adorned with familiar faces: Sting, Raquel Welch, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and the illustrious world of Peanuts Comics. Tonight as we are gathered with some of the most elite in the industry, the focus is not on the finer things in life in spite of the fresh glasses of poured champagne and the gourmet hors d’oeuvre from Ludo’s, Fig & Olive. Tonight we gather to raise money for a population of children living with an illness that scientists still haven’t cured. The thing is, when you watch the videos of the children, you don’t see the pain or the hurt – their faces emit more innocence, hope, and joy than I’ve ever seen. The work John and Kathy are doing is not about them though it’s difficult not to want to draw attention to their huge undertaking. That said, I promised John and Kathy I would write this article about the children and the organization and what the evening we shared in Beverly Hills was all about.
While John and Kathy are the faces of the organization, they are, in many ways, the mother and father raising a family of many. The children, as is most always the case, are the focal point, the motivation, the inspiration, the eternal optimism. Children unable to get the care they deserve and need were given a newfound life when New Hope for Cambodian Children began. In its onset, it received over $100,000 of support annually from the US government, including visits from Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Calvin Klein, and a plethora of celebrities beyond touched at the work being done. But as most things do, the school continues, budgets must be reallocated, and the beacon shifts. The thing is, the orphanage must continue and so events like this are created to bring awareness to a community willing to see the beauty in the instrumental need to support this cause. When speaking with Kathy and John, it’s impossible not to feel your heart flood with warmth and a strong desire to just want to hop on a plane and go to the orphanage straight away.
With as many as over a thousand children in the program, 220 of which living on site while the other 23 living in local university housing on Phnom Penh, over 1400 involved in the outreach program, the support is incredible. The Clinton Foundation provides the medicine to those in the outreach program and MOTO taxis deliver it to them free of charge.
“We provide all the medical transportation for all the kids.” – John and Kathy Tucker
While Cambodian families work hard, the strain of having a sick child is very difficult for them. $10-15USD a month covers their medical costs but that’s sometimes 2 months wage for an average worker.
“$10-$15 a month can make a really big difference for a family; that’s like what – 4 coffees at Starbucks?” John Tucker states.
Parents to seven children of their own, it was a local family priest in Texas that suggested the Tuckers help out locally in an effort to keep their family close and eventually, that led to a life devoted to giving with a move to Oaxaca, Mexico and three years after that, making their home in Cambodia. While in Mexico, they built a small medical clinic where they supported themselves on $200 USD a month and grew crops.
“We were living in Texas, living the ‘America Dream’ until we started to read about Mother Theresa and decided maybe we were called to do something besides chase the American dollar. [On living in Mexico] I could hardly speak Spanish so I was the low man of the Mexican Constructions crew … they spoke (Zapateco) Mayan dialect. ”
Once in Cambodia, in 2006, New Hope was born.
“I looked at my wife and said, fit everything you can in four suitcases. We’re going.”
Fourteen years later, they are still there and New Hope is more important now than ever before. While often posed with the inquiry of, “why not help those in need in America”, John and Kathy both say the suffering they saw in Cambodia was greater than any suffering they had ever seen anywhere else in their travels. Including the US. People and families were starving and fighting sickness without any proper care. The hospital aid in the region lacks the proper equipment and supplies and families are turned away for basic things like X-rays not because they can’t afford it but because the machines are broken.
The situation in Cambodia, in particular, to those children living with HIV/AIDS (1 in 3 have it) is an ever growing concern and New Hope offers these children the life they deserve. While donations are a constant struggle and financial support is a sought after goal, John and Kathy Tucker are committed to the “home” they’ve created. The beauty of New Hope is the money goes directly to the facility and maintenance of the site itself. Funds go to the medication, education, supplies, living, food, and water. These children are given hope – without question.
It was an honor to attend the event at Mouche Gallery who were so gracious to open their space for such a noble cause and to Fig & Olive who provided sumptuous bites of fare. Above all, a huge heartfelt thanks goes out to John and Kathy Tucker who selflessly give their time, energy, and resources in order to give the over 1,000 children at New Hope an opportunity to have a normal life in spite of being sick. When most people cater to the unfortunate thought process that those with AIDS cannot be touched, the Tucker’s wholeheartedly disagree as does their staff of volunteers who are all too happy to hug and love and nurture every single child that comes to them.
$500 a year provides full care to every child. The goal in 2014 and beyond is to have 4 devoted Sponsors for every child. That’s $60 per child per month … I’d encourage you ALL to join them and me in supporting such a beautiful and necessary humanitarian cause.
“We all get hung up on stuff, it really doesn’t matter. All the stuff starts to own you so we gave it up and have never been happier.”
NHCC was Founded in 2006, our mission is to collaborate with the Royal Government of Cambodia and Non-Governmental Organizations in order to assist Cambodian children living with HIV/AIDS, and their affected families. In doing so, we adopted a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on the provision of home-based social support to underprivileged children currently receiving ARV medication, and the provision of full-time holistic care to orphans and abandoned children with HIV/AIDS who live in our residential facility know as “Our Village”.
We started with 300 children’s and now we are helping 1000 kids. Thanks to the help of Bill Clinton Foundation we are now able to provide medication to all the children to fight this disease.
To be a part of changing the world, please Sponsor, Donate, and get involved.