BB2C began with the efforts of one woman, Paula Shirk, to help the birth parents and siblings of her son Rudi, adopted in 2003. Rudi was born with the birth name Puth Chak to a woman named Ol Srun and her husband Chak. Because Chak left Srun when she was three months pregnant with three older children to raise, and because the family was already in desperate straits, Srun agreed to give 17-month-old Puth up for adoption in 2003. Rudi was accompanied by a photo of his pretty, young birth mother and three birth siblings, two boys and a girl under ten. All stared into the camera of the adoption facilitator. All were clearly bewildered, sad, their makeshift hut behind them. Their faces showed hunger, and for Rudi’s new mom, the photo became a motivating force. Paula didn’t want Rudi at 18 to say to her, “You knew the despair my family lived in, and you did nothing.”
And there begins a family’s story of renewal and recovery.
After considerable effort, Paula was able to locate the family with the help of a contact in Cambodia. Although Chak had rejoined them in the meantime, both Rudi’s parents were unemployed and looking for work in a part of Cambodia still littered with landmines. The family moved back to Phnom Penh, living in a lean-to against the wall of a factory. During rainy season, their shelter would flood with sewage, and both Srun and her daughter became very ill. Through an exceptionally generous donation, the family was able to move to better housing.
Paula helped Rudi’s birth parents set up a market stall in Phnom Penh and bought them a motor scooter to transport fish and vegetables to the market. Chak and Srun worked with a sugar cane machine, which they designed themselves, that makes a popular local drink. Profits from selling this drink have helped raise the family’s standard of living.
Knowing how important it was for the children to get an education, Paula paid the school tuition for Rudi’s birth siblings, Sith, Srim, and Sal, at the Palm Tree Institute in Phnom Penh.