Vatey’s Story

Vatey was born into a family of fishermen and women. When she was young, her parents would leave her and her siblings at night and head out to sea in search of seafood to sell. While they worked regularly, their income was unstable and largely dependent on what they caught. Sometimes they would earn $5 a day, sometimes they would earn nothing at all. One night, Vatey’s neighbors were supposed to be watching her while her parents were fishing, but they weren’t watching closely enough. During the night, knowing she was alone, their son raped Vatey. She ran to another neighboring family down the street and they told them what had happened. Their family filed a report with the police, but the perpetrator ran away.

It wasn’t safe for Vatey to remain her home community. Her mother struggled with substance abuse and the neighbor’s son remained in the area, in spite of what had happened. That’s when Vatey was referred to Hagar. Initially, she was placed in residential care with other children who had also experienced severe trauma, but after two years with Hagar in 2014, Vatey moved to be with who she now calls her “real family”.

When Vatey first arrived at her new home, she was naturally nervous. She didn’t know if she could trust her foster parents, and her past experiences had made her uneasy around new people. She describes herself at first as being uncomfortable around the family. Three years later, Vatey is warm in her interactions with her parents and siblings. She loves them, and she carries herself with a quiet confidence. Her foster mother describes her as gentle, and the most honest child in the house. Vatey no longer needs counselling, and has transitioned from the foster home into a house right next-door. This is so she can learn how to live semi-independently and develop key skills for self-management, at the same time continue to live in a community with her foster family. She still spends most of her time with her foster siblings and parents, she loves playing football with them, and she studies hard alongside her foster sisters each night.

Vatey eats with the whole family each day, and their family extends often. Her parents are generous with everything that they have, and at the moment that looks like having five foster children and three of their own children under the same roof. They had two new children join them last week, and Vatey’s foster mother hopes to continue opening their home to new children for as long as she can. She is deeply empathetic, and it’s well known in her community that she is someone to call upon for help.

Vatey isn’t hard to have around the house. Her foster mother says she’s been very helpful in tending to their corn crop, and they enjoy cooking together. Eating together is a big part of their family culture. When asked what one of the challenges of foster parenting is, she shares that finding what the children do and don’t like to eat can be tough. Like anyone below the age of 17, they have intense likes and dislikes when it comes to the table. Once a month, they go to a new place as a family and have a picnic, especially during Christmas.

Vatey hopes that when she graduates, she’ll be able to continue on with her education and become a teacher. She shares that her dream is to be able to teach and to set an example in her community. Thanks to Hagar’s foster care program, Vatey has spent the last three years in a loving home that has helped her heal and come to hope for far beyond what has happened to her in her life. Hagar is committed to walking the whole journey with Vatey.


Hagar International. Foster Family. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. November 08, 2017. Photo/Jeff Holt
Photo credit: Jeff Holt