Siem Reap is the city I’ve lived and worked in for a few years. It is a city almost entirely reliant on tourism. Right now, it’s a bit of a ghost town! The majority of hotels are closed down, there are no tourists for the tour guides and tuk-tuk drivers to take to Angkor Wat, the majority of restaurants are closed (some are doing deliveries). The majority of teachers are also without pay (most schools closed down entirely).
For most Cambodian people, they were already living paycheck to paycheck. Many are also in heavy debt. People are starting to really feel the hardship now. A lot of NGOs were already helping with handing out rice. Meat is almost out of the question for the very poor, so eggs were a great answer for helping provide some protein in the diet. Friends of mine run a Business-as-Mission called Eggscellent Eggs. They started this business to try to give people in a poor village a good job without having to move to the city. They have built up a very good reputation in Siem Reap and expanded to Phnom Penh just last year. Normally, they supply high-end hotels and restaurants with their farm-fresh eggs. Right now, of course, they have chickens laying but no hotels to sell the eggs to. They have reduced their prices and are now trying to sell their eggs in the market. A number of Christians in Siem Reap have begun trying to buy eggs from them. These eggs are then distributed to local churches for them to distribute to those in need. This way, the foreigners are not seen as the ones handing out things, and local churches have greater opportunities in their communities to reach out to people in practical ways and to share the Good News. Because we wanted to make sure that local churches were the ones handing out the eggs and not the foreigners, it took some coordinating! A group of us, including the owner of Eggscellent, met numerous times to work out how best to use the money donated, and which local churches/pastors/leaders would have the greatest reach to help those desperately in need of food.
The ‘foreigners’ have stayed out of the way and let Cambodians distribute the eggs to the contacts they already have. Two-thirds of the eggs bought have been distributed to Cambodian churches/leaders to hand out to people they know are struggling to feed their families, both in the city of Siem Reap and in villages surrounding Siem Reap. The other third was donated to two organisations - one of whom works with girls rescued from sex trafficking and supporting families who are classed as 'at risk' of this happening, and the other organisation is one that works with the disabled. From the reports coming back, everyone has been so very grateful and more open to letting Christians pray for them and their families. We pray that through this practical support, their hearts will be softened to the good news of Jesus and know that God cares about them and loves them.