Changing young lives !
One of the goals of Kasumisou Foundation is to bring positive change to young lives. We do this in a variety of ways: education, social support and exposure to the rich artistic heritage of Cambodia. The Summer Arts Camp is one way that we help disadvantaged children to see the world from a different view.
Our annual Summer Arts Camp was originally conceived as just a fun summer activity to benefit disadvantaged children from the municipal orphanage and an AIDS hospice that is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. However, for some participants, it has proven to be more than just a way to keep busy during the annual summer holiday from school. Instead, it has provided not only an exciting introduction into the world of traditional dance and music, but it has also provided an opportunity to break free from the motonony of institutional life. It offers an opportunity for students to challenge themselves daily as they master the physical skills and intense concentration required by Cambodian traditional dance.
Following the conclusion of our Summer Arts Camp 2011 in late September of last year, three boys from the municipal orphanage requested permission to continue to attend daily classes at the Apsara Arts school.
In order to do so, these three boys, sharing two borrowed bicycles, rode more than 5 km ( about 2 miles) each way to attend the classes each day, 6 days per week. Now as we prepare for the start of Summer Arts Camp 2012, these boys continue to attend daily classes at the Apsara Arts Association and their skill levels have improved to such a degree that the boys are often invited to take part in the weekly public performances given by the students at the Apsara Arts school.
This is a great example that shows how a small investment in a young person can bloom and perhaps transform a life. As we approach preparation and planning for the Summer Arts Camp 2012, we hope that you will continue to support our efforts to enrich the lives of these and other children.
Thank you again for your generous support.
Barbara & Mark Rosasco
FSP in Action and Changing Lives
Mark returned this week from his quarterly trip to Cambodia where he met with almost all FSP program families and
conducted his standard line-item review of the AIDS Patient Family Support Program and other Kasumisou Foundation programs. The FSP continues without significant exception or change, maintaining a stable composition of 75 patient families and approximately 120 dependent children.
Its hard for us to explain to our supporters just how great it is to be able to report " no change". All of our patient families have already endured a great deal of individual and/or family trauma, so status condition reports of " no change" and " stable" are a welcome relief and change to patient families as the trauma that so often impacts the very poor can cause violent shifts in the flow of daily life.
In this quarterly report, we would like to share the story of one of "our" kids in the Family Support program to show you how the FSP, bit by bit, really can change young lives. For privacy, we will refer to our young lady as " Kay". Here is Kay's family history as best we can piece it together.
Kay is one of three children and she is from the outskirts of a "cross roads" town where two highways intersect in the countryside in the county of Kampong Cham. This town is about 2 1/2 hours away from Phnom Penh, the capital city, by car. Some years ago, Kay's mother and father both became extremely ill as a result of AIDS, causing them to lose everything and become extremely poor. At this time, with both parents gravely ill, and no means of support, Kay's mother gave away the older children. The location of those older children remains unknown. Kay's father died, leaving just Kay and her mother alone in the family and in desperate circumstances.
Kay's mother left Kampong Cham and , together with Kay, catching rides as best they could, traveled to Phnom Penh to try to seek medical treatment. Kay, now 14 years old, came to us 6 years ago when her mother, homeless and gravely ill from AIDS joined the FSP. Within a few months, Kay's mother died in the charity ward at the Russian Hospital in Phnom Penh, leaving Kay all but an orphan. We learned that Kay's grandmother, a widow who had lost her husband to a brutal death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge during the Civil War years, was still living in Kampong Cham. In recent years, Kay's grandmother had lived in extreme poverty, surving only on the kindness of neighbors.
We made arrangements for Kay to return to Kampong Cham to live with her grandmother. Extremely poor and with failing eyesight, Grandmother could not, on her own, afford to take care of or provide medical care for Kay.
Kasumisou Foundation's FSP stepped in and developed a practical low cost plan to enable this tiny family of grandmother and grand-daughter to stay together. A kindly neighbor in Kampong Cham allowed the FSP to build a house on their land: a tiny bamboo thatch house, with tin roof and dirt floor was built and became home. The house has a single room.
In the 6 years that Kay has been in the FSP, she has impressed us with her courage and ability. Kay, herself, has AIDS. Despite this, she has been the top student in her class for several years. Her current class in a government run school, is an 8th grade class which has 45 students. Kay is the top student in the class. Additionally, Kay studies English in a group class of 12 students (her class fee sponsored by Kasumisou Foundation) where she is also the top student. Over the years, Kay's grandmother's severe cataracts have made her nearly blind. Kay, at age 14, takes care of her 85 year old grandmother and keeps the household going in the little one room house. Kay is an honors student in school, top in her class, attends English class and she also works part time in a market stall to bring in money to the family. In frail health, Kay's grandmother will soon turn 86. Grandmother has requested that Kay become a ward of Kasumisou Foundation should the grandmother pass away.
The FSP brings Kay to Phnom Penh once per month by rural taxi ( $ 12) so that her illness ( AIDS) can be monitored and managed. To date, she has remained in good health and has bright hopes for the future. It is interesting to know that a rural taxi is nothing more than a flat trailer pulled by a motorcycle, or it might also be an opened pick up truck and once in a while an overcrowded van. The trip is about 2 1/2 hours each way.
The long term approach of " family support" by Kasumisou Foundation makes it possible for Kay to pursue her dream to become a teacher of Khmer ( Cambodian) literature and English.
We hope that this project report will give you a better idea of some of the many ways that the Kasumisou Foundation AIDS Patient Family Support Program ( FSP) works to help needy families in crisis and to help the children of those families work to break the cycle of inherited poverty.
We are deeply grateful to you all for your generous support.
Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
On February 20, 2012, I was able to visit the Kasumisou Foundation's project for Apsara Arts Program where youth and orphans, whether poor or rich, can learn traditional Cambodian dance, drawing, and music while not in school and during summers (instead of being on the streets).
There I was able to meet Sithen, the local Kasumisou foundation staff for this project. He welcomed me and sat me down to discuss his background, how he came to Kasumisou, and its current support for the Apsara Arts Program. His background was in accounting and management and had applied for the position, and now he has become an advocate of the efforts.
Additionally, I met the Apsara Arts Program director's wife who told me that before Kasumisou, the program ran in a small house. Kasumisou donated the training center where now many youth can learn traditional Cambodian arts and the culture can be passed down for generations to come. What kept her going? It was because it was preserving the culture, and although she sometimes felt discouraged when kids did not show up.. in the end "she kept going to preserve the culture for future generations". She was very happy and very grateful. I also learned that she was a former dancer for the Royal Palace back in her performing days - you can still see the grace and pride in her when she shares with visitors he meaning of the dance movements.
Every movement had a meaning - each signifying something in nature. The ages of the children (both boys and girls) ranged from age 3 to 20. 9 children were orphaned and were able to live at the center, and the most talented went on to become teaching assistants - a way to make a living and to break their cycles of poverty. Earlier in the day, I met 3 children that had attended the Apsara Arts Summer Program and benefitted from this project. They shared with me the song and dance they learned, and how they loved going.
The laughs of the kids were contagious (all had on traditional uniforms), and their focus was admirable. See HERE for a short clip of the training. Several of the youth who were part of the Kasumisou foundation support were present at the time (3 to be exact).
The funding is based on donor-support and highly dependent on it. Only 1 person managed this funding locally (Sithen), discussed increases or decreases with the Apsara director and staff, and provided accounting for the 2 main founders that visit every few months. Everyone were extremely welcoming to me, eager to share their experience with Kasumisou, and answer any questions I had. The common sentiment throughout the day was that all were so grateful for Kasumisou.
In the end, I was even was able to participate. I was dragged on stage even though I repeatedly oh-kooned (thank-you'd ) and declined, but to no avail.. up on stage I went and was guided with clear English 1,2,3’s throughout the entire dance (you can see me in one of the photos in the back with a green sweater)…
For more details and pictures about my visit please visit: JacquelineInTheField