Ratanakiri is located in Cambodias far northeastern corner, and is bordered by Laos to the north and Vietnam to the east.Hidden high into the northeastern forests are the 12 highland hill-tribe peoples. The hill tribes account for about 80% of the province’s 70,000 inhabitants. Most of the hilltribes in Ratanakiri are animist and farm with the slash and burn method. They grow rice and vegetables, and raise water buffalo and cows. They also hunt, using crossbows with poison-tipped bamboo arrows. Many still wear traditional costumes, which include sarongs, tattooed faces and ivory tusk earrings in their elongated earlobes. Very few of the villages have electricity.
The recent history of Ratanakiri is not a happy one. During the Vietnam War, American B-52’s bombed large portions of the hilltribes’ territory in the Americans’ attempt to destroy the sanctuaries of Vietnamese troops. In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge used Ratanakiri as their main base of operations, and when they came to power in 1975, the Khmer Rouge killed almost half the tribal population.
The Ratanakiri Province is very poor. With this poverty are many of the associated health problems. In March 1999, a cholera outbreak killed several hundred residents, even decimating entire villages. Malaria, typhoid, and various infections continue to cause problems for the population, and contribute to the orphan population.
Every morning, the children begin their day with a morning devotional. After the time of bible study, worship, and prayer, they eat breakfast. Some go to school in the morning, and others attend school after lunch. When the children are not in school, they might help with house chores, take a nap, or play. The children enjoy playing soccer, Cambodian games, and learning traditional dances. Everyday, the children study English at a class held in the home. After studying English, the kids participate in the evening devotional. They review their lessons before going to sleep.