Building Dreams- One student at a time
Mark will arrive in Cambodia next week and meet with this project group of 4 prospective college students. A part of his discussion will focus on their own abilities to identify any possible source of tuition funding and also what possible resources they have identified to reduce housing costs , assuming that we can raise the funds for tuition.
When we first posted this project we had high hopes of raising funds to help send these and other students like them on to local college. In Cambodia, costs of education in Western terms are very low, with tuition running only in the hundreds of dollars per year per student. Nursing tends to the be highest tuition, running at about $ 800 per year. Although low by western standards, these are astronomical sums for students to raise, and there are few lending sources available.
Let’s look at some of the figures: a day laborer earns about $ 3.00 per day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. Assuming annual tuition costs of $400 per year, this means that a “ typical” college student would need to work more than 130 man days over 21 weeks to earn the tuition amount. However, this $ 3.00 per day, assuming a 6 day work week, creates a monthly income of $ 120 which must also pay for food and rent. Even in poor countries, slum living can easily cost about $ 100 per month for food, rent, utilities and transportation to a job. Consequently, even if a student worked full time and could manage to save $ 20 per month, it would take nearly 2 years to save basic tuition. The economics of the situation prevent even the most ambitious student from working to earn enough money to pay tuition and room and board.
To date, we have received 2 donations for our 4 students. Regretably, we can't commit to helping these students unless we are able to identify and/or raise sources of tuition funding. We are not giving up, but we are delayed in being able to report actual " student" progress.
Receiving a college degree can help to propel these students from a life of unstable day labor to a middle class stability.
We currently have 4 students from our Family Support program , 2011 high school graduates, in college. Fortunately, we have found sponsors for them. We have another 6 students on track to graduate from High School in 2013 as well as these 4 students from our Rural Assistance Program . Our great hope is that having managed to graduate from High School, we can help facilitate these students achieve their dream of a college education.
The start of a new chapter in 2013: Champey Academy of Arts ( CAA)
January 2013 marks the start of a new chapter in our efforts to bring the joys, discipline and pride of culture of traditional Cambodian arts and dance to underprivileged children. Expanding upon our previous project of Summer Arts Camp , several of the teachers and staff formerly with our old Apsara program are continuing to work with us on our new project the Champey Academy of Arts ( CAA). CAA started dance classes at our new location this month in Phnom Penh. Champey is the Cambodia name for the tropical plumeria flower. Our new location is centrally located and is just a short walk of one block to the Royal Palace, the National Museum and Royal University of Fine Arts.
Our inaugural class includes a group of approximately 20 young girls age 9 to 16 from a shelter for abused and formerly trafficked children in Phnom Penh. They are attending classes twice a week. We are receiving a strong expression of interest from other groups who serve disadvantaged children and we are looking forward to building a robust and diverse year round roster of activities for our students as our funding permits.
Activities which our program hopes to include, is to offer year round enrichment programs in traditional Cambodian dance, music instruction on traditional Cambodian musical instruments and instruction in a variety of Khmer arts and in Khmer culture and history for children who might otherwise grow up with little or no knowledge of their nation’s rich cultural history.
We are looking forward to bringing you more updates as our new program unfolds.
Personal Stories from the FSP
As we look forward to the New Yeaer, it is good to look back at how we have spent our time and whether we have achieved our goals. One of our goals this past year has been to keep you, our supporters, better informed about the impact that your support makes.
Each of our FSP patient families faces unique challenges, which for most us, are not survivable. But somehow, these fragile families manage to continue one, one step at a time. Our FSP provides food, housing and social support. We are the family to these families, coping withimmediate challenges, yet working toward the longer term solutions. Sometimes the changes which we strive so hard to make, are so slow in coming that we can recognize it only in hindsight. For example, by stressing education as a core value over the years, we now have 19 FSP kids in high school. Sometimes, sadly, despite our efforts, we fail as you will read below about Daria.
We hope that sharing these personal stories will you to fully understand the impact of your support and the challenges of our task. The names have been changed for reasons of privacy.
Our deepest thanks to you all for your generous support! Your support has changed and saved many lives.
Our best wishes to you all for 2013.
Barbara & Mark Rosasco
Personal Stories from the FSP 2012
Randy ( male, age 20): Randy's mother, an FSP patient, died from AIDS about 10 years ago . Randy suffers from serious mental retardation and he has never recovered from losing his mother. He now spends his days helping his 80+ year old grandmother sell vegetables in a market stall in Phnom Penh. His 17 year old sister attends school with FSP support. Our FSP continues to help this family with food and pay rent and the education expenses of the girl. Our goal is that the girl can acquire enough education or job skills to support and care for her older brother and her aged grandmother in the future. It has been a long slow process, but without FSP support these children would have almost certainly been trafficked. Instead, we are on the edge of this fragile family achieving financial independence within the next few years.
Mike lost his brother to AIDS about ten years ago. At that time our FSP supported Mike, his brother ( the breadwinner) , their aged mother and Mike’s four children, in total, 7 people. Mike’s wife had abandoned the children to live with another man in their neighborhood. Although Mike does not have AIDS, he is mentally unstable and suffers from severe alcoholism and is often unable to care for the family. The FSP has carefully monitored the condition of Mike’s children over the years and they are all fine students. Despite the family’s poverty, Mike’s frequent mental breakdowns, his constant fight with alcoholism and the emotional scars left by their mother’s abandonment, Mike’s children have managed to survive and stay together. This fragile family and its children have been kept together because of the support of the FSP, preventing the children from a tragic life of abuse and trafficking. Instead, they are good students, in a family life and a hope for a brighter future.
Daria is a 17 year old girl. About ten years ago, Daria lived on a sidewalk in Central Phnom Penh along with her brother, their AIDS afflicted mother and their aged grandmother. We took the family into the FSP. Daria’s mother died from AIDS several years ago and since then they have relied on their grandmother and the support of our FSP. Daria’s brother is now about 20 years old and he is in grade 6 at school. Despite his very limited mental ability, the boy loves school and tries his best. He has rejected suggestions to change to a job training course. Unfortunately, Daria is a sweet girl but an indifferent student and sometimes quite careless. She doesn’t have the determination of her older brother. Recently Daria’s carelessness in missing an arranged job opportunity to provide badly needed income for the family, earned her some criticism from her brother and grandmother as well as from our program staff. To our greaty distress, Daria has now run away from home to escape any further criticism. She is now somewhere on the streets of Phnom Penh and our team is searching for her. We hope that our team or her family will find her or she will decide to come home. Phnom Penh is a dangerous place for an innocent teen and we fear for her safety . We do not want Daria to meet the tragic fate of trafficking and enslavement which awaits so many teen age runaways and orphans on the streets of Cambodia’s capital.