Chad was found at the age of three months in a shoebox in the Khao I Dang refugee camp. The camp was opened in November 1979 as the Khmer Rouge ended their reign of terror. Between November & January of 1980, nearly 1600 Cambodians arrived each day; each with their own personal story of tragedy and horror. Chad’s birth mother would have been one of these. He was born in April of 1980.
The United Nations had moved into Cambodia as soon as foreigners were allowed back into the country. In fact, Cambodia is the only country in the history of the UN that has been completely governed by that body.
It was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that set up Khao I Dang and that oversaw the operations of that camp. And it was the UNHCR that was responsible for repatriating displaced Cambodians, including orphans.
Chad arrived in Canada at four months of age and we didn’t realize just how significant this was until we read a letter this week that Chad’s adoptive parents have had these past 30 years. It was written by a nurse in December of 1979 who was working in the very camp that Chad would be born into 4 months later.
I wish you could read the letter yourself. It’s one thing to read historical accounts but another thing entirely to read a passionate firsthand account of what was really happening in the lives of the Cambodian people in post-genocide Cambodia.
The letter begins with a short synopsis of life in the camp and quickly moves into the plight of the deserted and orphaned children. Sentences like this one leap out off the page: “These children are to be warehoused like seed rice to be returned at some later day to replenish the Cambodian race.”
You see, the UNHCR policy was that “any unaccompanied minor must not be removed from their environment”. “It was made very clear that these children are Cambodians and must share the fate of the rest of the Cambodians”.
Are you beginning to see the glimpse? This was a firsthand account. This is what was really happening. The writer goes on further to say that “their solution is to put the children into orphanage units within the community. No children were to be considered for resettlement in other countries.”
So how did one little Cambodian baby make it into the loving arms of a Stratford couple in Ontario, Canada? Luck, fate, chance? Not when 30 years later, he has been called to return to the country of his birthplace and been promised that he will make a difference. No; that is God and God alone. “For I know the plans I have for you”.