Lidia Linde Ginesta
At a bright and sunny home in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 40 smiling children gather around their Spanish mamá, Lidia Linde Ginesta. For Lidia, this brood of boys and girls provides a reason to get up each morning and face every new challenge with a smile. “In everything I do,” Lidia says, “it is the children who inspire me. They wake up having very difficult situations to face and they try to walk one more day…if they can, I can.”
A world traveler who describes the “blue planet” as her greatest teacher, Lidia was born in 1965 and raised in Barcelona, Spain. “Traveling as much as I could,” she says, “has always been my passion. I earned enough money to be able to afford many vacations and to buy all that I needed. But after many years of taking trips, I started to feel that I should do something to help others. My travels made me aware that millions of people do not have even basic things like food, healthcare, innocence, and dreams.”
It was in 2007, while Lidia was in Cambodia, that the calling to give back struck her. Feeling there was not a moment to lose, she sought and found an opportunity to help vulnerable children—those who were abused, neglected, trafficked, begging on the street, and otherwise without responsible relatives to care for them. She says, “I began as a volunteer, and although IsoonhadtogobacktomyjobinSpain,I returned as often as possible for increasingly longer stays—some as long as six months. Each time I returned to Cambodia, I became more attached to the projects, the people, and the problems.”
For the next few years, Lidia split her time between work in Spain and trips to Cambodia, establishing NGOs in both countries so that she could fundraise for the projects she was supporting. In 2010, she made the decision to quit her job and make Cambodia her permanent home. That year, she also renamed the NGOs, calling them Together for Cambodia, the name by which they are known today. “Cambodia adopted me,” she says. “I work now with a wonderful team to help children build their presents, walk towards their futures, and feel proud of themselves, their land, and their roots.”
The children’s home Lidia founded provides shelter, nutritious food, and lots of love for children ages 4 to 19. In addition to supporting the home, Together for Cambodia also pays for the school-age children to attend Future Bright International School and to receive healthcare through a nearby hospital. Lidia says, “We are creating a family atmosphere where the children feel secure and safe. On weekends we go out like any family—visiting a temple, climb- ing a mountain, swimming in a lake, visiting a local park, or attending a football match.”
Although the children’s home is today a rental, a plot of land has been purchased where a new home will soon be built along with edu- cational and recreational facilities. The new educational facilities will be large enough to allow children from the community to come to classes as well. In addition, Together for Cambodia will continue to raise funds for and manage a wide range of projects with local authorities to reduce discrimination against disabled children, prevent the exploitation and trafficking of youth, and provide financial assis- tance and vocational training for women whose families are without sufficient resources.
Lidia’s guiding philosophy is this: “When people living in miserable conditions are able to keep fighting, how can I not fight too? We should keep doing for others, no matter how many storms, rocks or floods we find in our way. If we believe in what we are doing, we will not be scared to fall down, to get wet, or to receive some pain sometimes. Because finally the sun will shine every day and the moon will keep doing its amazing job too.”