Letter from Janne Ritskes - January 31, 2015
Dear friends and partners,
It's hard to believe that the first month of 2015 is almost gone and we are heading towards February – a month of love – well, Valentine's Day to be exact. So you ask, what is so special about Valentine's Day this year? We are having our 4th Annual walkathon here in Cambodia – an event that celebrates the variety of life in this country. People come from the bustling city of Phnom Penh, cross the Mekong in a ferry – early enough to enjoy the sunrise and the cool breezes. Walkers get to enjoy village life and then this year, get to walk through rice fields surrounded by ponds – it is ever so quiet and so very refreshing. On the home stretch of the walk is village life culminating with the end line celebrated in a grove of mangoes.
What else is so special – the wide variety of people who walk – peoples from a dozen nations mixing with Cambodians – people who enjoy a high status in society walking alongside those for whom life is so difficult – people who are educated mixing with those who cannot write their name – people with designer shoes walking alongside those who have no shoes. Each person oblivious to these social status points for a few hours as they become family while walking together.
Valentine's Day is a day when we choose to show we care for the women who have no voice – for women who suffer in silence when they are ill because they have no other choice. The Walkathon is about standing beside children whose mum is hurting and there is no release – for young girls who would willingly be traded for money so mum can have some pain relief – it's about walking with husbands who watch helplessly as their wives' tears slip down their faces – helpless to comfort, helpless to care for the one they love the most. The Walkathon is about sons leaving school and finding work far from home just so mum will have some degree of comfort. The walkathon is about you and I walking together with these women of Cambodia – you and I giving voice to those who have none – giving hope to those who wait in despair.
The Walkathon is about anticipation as the ground floor of the hospital is poured and the support columns are beginning to reach their arms up to the next floor. It is about faith – faith, that in time those columns will hear the tears and joys of the many women who come for help. It is about living life itself in all its many facets, the sorrow, the hope, the laughter, the tears. For a few short hours, life is one because we walked for the seen and the unseen women in Cambodia.
Thank you for that gift – for the hope you all bring. We ask that on Valentine's Day you join us – no matter in what part of the world you live – no matter who you are – we ask that you walk with us in your homes – in your work place – in your places of leisure – in your schools and churches - in your places of pain. We ask because Nokor Tep Women's Hospital needs to open its doors to the women of Cambodia.
I thank my God for the beauty of the women I am surrounded with – for the beauty in each of you. I wish you all much love this Valentine's Day.