Kaneohe Couple Goes With The ‘Flow’ For Cambodia

Kaneohe's Sam Cox and Barbara Grace ‘Babs' Ripple with their Cambodian foster grandchildren Sophearak (left) and Sreyleap. PHOTO FROM COX AND RIPPLE.

Kaneohe’s Sam Cox and Barbara Grace ‘Babs’ Ripple with their Cambodian foster grandchildren Sophearak (left) and Sreyleap. PHOTO FROM COX AND RIPPLE.

Retired Windward ministers Samuel Cox and Barbara Grace “Babs” Ripple witnessed amazing things in Cambodia during a work trip this winter to Future Light Orphanage of Worldmate. Yet they saw tears only once — from their foster grandson, Sophearak, when they said goodbye.

“(The children are) so beautiful, they are so loved — even under the terrible circumstances that they find themselves in,” said Ripple, who lives at Pohai Nani retirement community with Cox, her husband of two years.

FLOW was founded in 1993 by Phaly Nuon, a survivor of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that devastated Cambodia and killed millions in the late 1970s. In the orphanage’s humble beginnings, it housed 91 children sleeping on the floor in two rooms. Today, more than 200 children live at FLOW, and 150 more benefit from its services, which include three meals a day, medical care and lessons in English, computer skills, and Cambodian arts and culture.

“It’s not the kind of orphanage where you adopt a child and bring them home,” explained Ripple, noting that FLOW’s goal is to care for and prepare the children to one day rebuild their country. “It is something to be with them and see them laughing.”

Sophearak, for example, has a mother who works daily 12-hour shifts at a garment factory. Unable to care for him, she reached out to FLOW for help. Today, she can visit him and know that he is well-cared for.

Cox and Ripple got involved with FLOW through Rob Hail of eGlobal Family and Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunrise — a friend of Cox from his time at Hale Kipa. Through Hail’s program, they began as eFoster Parents to Sophearak, donating $1 a day and sending him one friendly email a month. (They have since taken on foster granddaughter Sreyleap, as well.)

The Kaneohe couple decided to visit FLOW Jan. 23-Feb. 9 as volunteer English teachers, assisting their Cambodian colleagues and working with the children in the classroom from the perspective of native English speakers. “We were very impressed, first of all, with the children,” said Cox, 81, and now a part-time pastor at Kailua United Methodist Church. “They’re all eager to learn. Each of the children has a story.”

One boy in particular remains on Cox’s mind. “His name means ‘lucky’ in Cambodian. He was found in a basket, abandoned, and he was too sickly. They took him to the hospital, and (doctors) said he’s too far gone; he’s going to die. (Nuon) heard about him, and she put him in a hospital near the orphanage, and the kids would take turns visiting him, constantly.

“He survived, and he’s one of the kids there now, running around.”

To learn more about eGlobal Family and FLOW, or to get involved as an eFoster Parent, visit eglobalfamily.org.