A rickety pushcart rolls to the front of the soup kitchen and stops. A frail elderly woman lifts a tattered tarp on the back on the cart, revealing two tiny faces. One after the other, a pair of dramatically undersized children slips from the cart and into the warm embrace of Buckhunger, where a hot meal awaits them all.
From 11 until around 2 p.m. every day, more than 200 street children will pour through Buckhunger’s front door. The staff will guide them to the hand-washing station, seat them at one of the venue’s sparkling stainless steel tables and, like attending visiting royalty, will seat them on one of the blue plastic chairs and serve them their lunch.
Some of the diners are so small that the staff needs to stack three chairs for them to reach the tabletop. Many are dressed in tattered, filthy clothes, barefoot and hungry. Many carry the mark of poverty and malnutrition, their dark hair streaked with threads of blonde (a sign of kwashiorkor or severe protein deficiency which causes normally dark hair to turn red or blonde). And all are here for the same reason – it’s a place where they can find food.
Buckhunger opened its doors last month when Johnny Phillips, a former US restaurateur, was touched by the sight of street children rustling through rubbish heaps to find food. The children were like ghosts, disappearing into the alleys and nooks between buildings when the sun went down to eat what they may have found and to sleep in the dirt.
He found a vacant storefront for $300 a month. He hired 22 young, unemployed Cambodians and trained them in all aspects of food service – food preparation, handling, table busing and cleaning, dishwashing and food storage. He pays each a small salary and the second floor room over the restaurant provides housing for eight young women who don’t have a place to live.
He’s doing it on his own dime but is rapidly running short on money and fearful that he might not stay afloat without the necessary support. His reward is feeding kids and he doesn’t make a penny from whatever donations he can turn up.
So far, it hasn’t been much. But we’d like to change that.
Buckhunger can feed a kid one meal a day for a month for about $25. Go to www.buckhunger.com and read about the organization and you’ll see the need. Please consider a donation of any amount.
For $150, he can feed four kids and pay one staff salary.
It costs about $5,000 a month to keep the enterprise going but his savings are quickly being consumed by the steady stream of kids as word filters out that there’s a no-strings-attached meal waiting for them at Buckhunger.
Please take a look at Johnny’s website and do what you can to help. Whether it’s $10, $25, $100 or more.
There’s also an option to set up a direct debit (all tax deductible) contribution.
Johnny figures he has enough cash to hold out for four more months. Without sustained contributions, Buckhunger will have to close and dozens of Cambodian children will once again be searching for their next meal in garbage heaps.
We simply cannot allow that to happen. Please join us.