04/30/2012, 00.00
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From Phnom Penh to Milano, a Cambodian couple bears witness of faith in the family

Ly Sovanna (aka Vanna), 33, and Keum Sokhon, 32, have been married for eight years. The Cambodian couple will be among thousands of families from 70 countries attending the 7th World Family Meeting scheduled for 30 May-3 June in Milan, which will end with an embrace of Benedict XVI.

Milan (AsiaNews) - Vanna and Sokhoh are a deeply religious Catholic couple. Their story deserves to be known. Paola Maiocchi, a member of PIME's lay missionary community active in Cambodia for years, will present it.

Vanna originally hails from Kompong Cham province. Orphaned at the age of 10, he was taken to Kompong Thom (Battambang diocese) to live with relatives. Quickly, the "little orphan" was helped by the Church and so grew up near priests and Christians. Sokhon is from a Catholic family in Kompong Thom. She grew up in the Church. In 1996, both were baptised in Kompong Thom.

Eventually the two close friends came to Phnom Penh to further their education. Vanna went to the Catholic University Student Centre (opened in 2000), whilst Sokhon went to study with the Salesian nuns.

The two were married in 2004 and settled permanently in Phnom Penh. After training in computer science, Vanna was asked by Fr Omer Giraldo, a Colombian missionary with the Yarumal Missionary Society and director of the Social Communications Office, to set up a Catholic Social Communications (CSC) programme for the Catholic Church in Cambodia. In 2009, Vanna became its director.

Sokhon became involved instead in the world of the disabled, working with Jesuit-sponsored projects until 2007, when her first child, Gabriel, was born. A second child, Elisabeth, was born in 2009, and a third one is on the way.

The couple also went abroad. Sokhon took part in World Youth Day in Rome of 2000. Vanna spent three months in Taizé that same year. For professional reasons, Vanna has also attended international conferences, especially in Asia.

"They are highly involved members of Phnom Penh's Child Jesus parish, a model of reference for other couples and young people," said Paola Maiocchi, who knows them very well. "Having them as guests (staying at her grandmother) will be a way for the meeting to find echoes back in Cambodia," she explained.

Vanna and Sokhon will be the only Cambodian couple at this year's World Family Meeting. However, many participants will come from other Asian nations and Churches.

A large delegation will come from the Philippines (more than 600) with groups of families travelling from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, South Korea, Japan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Lebanon, Myanmar, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam.

Some families will also come from Hong Kong, Macao and the People's Republic of China and even North Korea, whilst a few will be from war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria. (GF)

To give everyone a change to take part in the 7th World Meeting, a 'World Family Reception Fund' was created. Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so at the following account: IBAN IT16Q0306901629100000014189. Object: Gemellaggi per Family 2012.

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