The Ragamuffin Project

The Ragamuffin Project is committed to the relief of emotional pain and psychological damage in children, adults and communities through Creative Arts Therapy. We work together with those who bring such relief to people who suffer around the world.
Aug 21, 2014

Supporting Cambodia's Emerging Foster Care for Vulnerable Young People

Foster Parents Capacity Building and Support Programme


Ragamuffin Cambodia is an INGO delivering Creative Arts Therapies, training and supervision in partnership with organizations in Cambodia. Ragamuffin is committed to the relief of emotional pain and psychological damage in children and adults. We work together with those who bring such relief to people who suffer.

In Cambodia, Ragamuffin has been working with M’Lop Ruessey (MLR) and previously with ICC/SKY since 2004, designing, delivering and evaluating Creative Arts Therapy, clinical supervision and staff support programs to build the capacity, empower and support those who work with emotional and psychological distress and trauma.

Be-Yourself is the Cambodian led Clinical Arts Therapy Service in Ragamuffin. Since 2012 Be-Yourself has been working closely with MLR delivering arts therapy for children and adolescents in crisis, multi- disciplinary team case working with social workers and support staff, along with support and de-briefing with foster carers. As Institutionalised care in Cambodia moves towards community led care, foster carers will be increasingly needed for short and long term placements of care leavers. Their support, capacity development is essential in providing effective care as they create family environments for young people.

MLR are currently supporting families who have been offering emergency foster care to vulnerable children. Those children were transitioned from the different orphanages that were legally shut down by Cambodian’s government. So far, those families are working closely with MLR in providing physical, psychological, and social care to the children before they will be reintegrated back to live with their families or transitioned to live with other long-term foster families. Serey Samchet from the Be-yourself Arts Therapy team is providing therapeutic de-briefing, capacity building and social worker case support for these families.


The creative process helped the foster families to begin to consider their needs in order to support themselves and children more effectively.

“ This is the first time for me to begin to see what I need for my work with children…by receiving more support this will help me and other foster families to build more confidence in supporting vulnerable and traumatised children”(Foster Parent)

“I feel so grateful with this opportunity as it is so helpful for me to realize that it is so important for me to learnto seek support for myself and children when I find myself feeling so overwhelming in dealing with problems and situations that are beyond my capacity to handle it. For example, if there is any child struggling with mental health issues, she may need a therapist, now I know I can refer children to get professional support – I feel so relieved” (Foster Parent)

The foster parents reported a significant decrease in their levels of anxiety and an increase of self-esteem by reflecting and being together as a group. They were able to learn from each other’s experiences and so deeply inspire each other. As a result, their sharing helped them to identify the similarities, difficulties, values, and helpful ways to handle problems.

“After hearing the challenges and positive things that other foster families have shared to the whole group, I found them to be so inspirational and I began to feel connected and realize that I am not alone in struggling the everyday difficulties in caring for vulnerable children” (Foster Parent)

‘Giving Gratitude’

“It is the first time for me that I felt the deep connection as we shared with each other as foster parents and I am so excited to learn and exchange my experiences with other foster families which I found it so inspirational and beneficial“ (Foster Parent)

“I have never been asked to consider things that I need to thank myself for before. It is the first time in my life to feel so deeply touched and see how much I have contributed mysupport to the children, family, and society, it really helps me to realize that I am important and I do not need to be perfect to be important” (Foster Parent)

Be-yourself – continues to support foster carers, social workers and vulnerable children in crisis in partnership with NGO’s such as MLR.

Thank you for taking time to read this and showing your support for Ragamuffin Cambodia and the mental health of those most in need.

May 20, 2014

Beautiful Me - Eating Disorders, The Image Complex and Notions of Beauty


Beautiful Me - Eating Disorders, The Image Complex and Notions of Beauty and Attraction for Men and Women.

“If we can only look at each person’s natural inner beauty, before looking at the physical beauty, its hope, like finding the light to light the darkness. Ragamuffin’s training course has made me feel valued again. It makes me want to continue my life., It has given me hope – a hope that I know I will now give this same degree of care and compassion to the young people in my care” (Course participant, social worker & educator)

Professional development training and development of clinical therapy services for young people

Young people in Cambodia, like young people anywhere in the world, are trying to make sense of who they are, and how to be who they are. In a rapidly changing urban climate, where development is in constant change, young people are facing the complex challenges of being increasingly exposed to international and Asian media’s notions and images of external beauty. Young people are having to navigate and quickly learn to manage the transition from a more traditional cultures’ notion of beauty towards a more contemporary context. There is no let-up from the pressures of materialism and a socially imbibed construct of self-image. This exists alongside ongoing challenges of poverty and societal challenges that impact well-being and resilience.

Almost every young person who is referred to our Arts Therapy service faces issues of self-esteem, confidence, self-image along with deeper stressors and troubles that have a more long lasting impact.It is these very issues of domestic violence, abuse, trafficking and chronic poverty that are compounding the very real challenge of transition in a changing climate for young people.

Ragamuffin seeks to design continuing professional development programmes (CPD) for our Clinical Arts Therapy team, organisational partners and the wider psychosocial community in Cambodia to support, equip and raise awareness of such pertinent issues. The aim is to enable Cambodian professionals to become more aware of the underlying issues and the range of coping strategies a young person may utilize to manage life. Such ongoing training increases the capacity of therapists and caregivers to effectively and compassionate respond to the needs of young people in distress. It also enables them to ask for help and gain support when they feel out of their depth or at the limits of their competence.

In response to these issues Ragamuffin provide a rolling programme fo CPD training workshops. One example is Beautiful Me, a 5-day Professional Development Course for Clinicians and Carers on Eating Disorders, The Image Complex and Notions of Beauty and Attraction for Men and Women.

The course was attended by therapists, educators, social workers and professionals including those who work in beauty industry in Cambodia.

On the course we explored:

Our weight, and whether we see ourselves, and others see us as attractive or not, which matters to so many of us. We know that both genders are affected by this pressure, but perhaps women suffer the greater demand to look the part.

There is growing anecdotal evidence that suggests that young Cambodian women are developing traits of what was once thought to be a Western disease; Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia are on the rise.

The workshop flyer asked, What gives rise to this distorted perception of the self - A ‘Hall of Mirrors’ conspiracy where the mind attacks the body? What deep sorrow, or unmet need would lead someone to such obsession?” and further stated, “

Reassurance that, “you are beautiful just the way you are”, will unlikely be enough to put the mind at peace and ease the growing distress.

In a country where understanding of this is at present limted we aimed to address, “What is an Eating Disorder? What causes it? What can be done to help prevent young women, and sometimes men, from developing the symptoms, or treat those who have full-blown Bulimia or Anorexia Nervosa?

In this training workshop we worked toward a deepening understanding of what motivates those with eating disorders, and considered our reactions to those who suffer from them. We worked together in experiential contextualised dramatic role plays to increase our capacity to respond to the underlying issues that can result in the development of a potentially life threatening illness.

The course combined a creative study of the subject with creative approaches to working with those we come into contact with, who are either already unwell, or showing signs of developing an eating disorder.

This course is so important because this subject is invisible - people don't know about it. People have eating disorders but we can't identify it, there has been no education here, no research and nothing or little in the way of treatment programs. To be part of this course helped me to begin to consider the issue, and realise the number of people who aresuffering from this issue in Cambodia. As a therapist I am now more aware of what eating disorders are.,It has increased my capacity and confidence in being able to do assessments and how to help young people who are facing this crisis. It has also helped me to consider what support network is needed for anyone who has a severe eating disorder and how we can begin to find the appropriate resources to support such a person. It is such a gap in Cambodia to even consider these issues - it is so very important, many others need to learn about these issues.” Serey Samchet – Senior Arts Therapist – Be-yourself Project, Ragamuffin Cambodia.

“Throughout out the course I have learnt that there is so much more to eating disorders than just the thought of being skinny. Now I have a much deeper understanding. When we talked about what's inside of us, and emphasized this more than just looking at what's on the outside, we found so much beauty and this began to shine through everyone on the course.

I have learnt that often, when people change their outside appearances drastically, they are trying to protect, control or hide something inside of them that is so painful or distressing.

After the course I'm much more aware. I will approach my clients differently after getting this knowledge. I also think that my eyes will be more open to the signs that people with lower self-esteem or the potential to develop an eating disorder show. I will try to help them right away instead of waiting for it to get worse and worse.

I need to see those invisible people and help them. I know how I can see them more clearly now and am much more ready and able to respond” (Course participant, Social Worker)

“As a Cambodian educator, I never knew what an Eating Disorder was. However, during the course we explored the cultural issues for young Cambodians and I remembered an old novel we were all familiar with. It's a tragedy about a young woman whose circumstances of family conflict and lost love resulted in her gradually stopping eating to a point at which she died. I never thought that it could be a sickness of the heart which could lead people to death.

I now have learnt so much more about what this really is, how it can develop, what causes it, and what can be done to help prevent young women and men from developing a very serious illness.

I see this issue in the young people in our care who experience so much pressure from the media and each other to look a certain way. Some of them weigh themselves 4, 5, 6 times a day. It’s a real a problem this issue of self-image and beauty.

I can now begin to help them to be more aware and develop a positive relationship to inner beauty and self-confidence. We can also begin to recognize the reaction or behaviour of those who have, or who might be at risk of developing a more serious issue or illness. For those where that is the case, we can take them to get professional help and support – everyone who cares for young people in Cambodia needs to understand these important issues”(Course Participant, Education Leader). 

Feb 19, 2014

Be-Yourself and Fly with Songkites!


I. The Overview of  Be-yourself Arts Therapy Project: by Serey Samchet (Be-Yourself Arts Therapist and Project Coordinator)

Be-yourself developed from Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapy Clinic as a Khmer led project in 2013. The aim of this project is to bring healing, nurture, honor, and celebration to the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in Cambodia. The project is so passionate to offer creative arts therapy as a natural and powerful healing process to individuals and group of young people and adults who are suffered by psychological problems in order to discover their essence of who they are, their connectedness with others, their ability to heal from traumatic experiences and grow, and to lead a good quality of life. Our project strongly believes in the power of arts therapy in enabling people to be themselves, to transform and celebrate their life, other people, and their world.


II. Project’s outcome

Throughout this whole year, the project has worked in collaboration with both international and local partnership NGO’s such as M’Lop Russey, Domnok Tek, Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity, LICHADO, Chab Dia, International Justice of Mission and Citipoint in order to deliver arts therapy, supervision, training, and emergency de-briefing to key staff including: social workers and counselors, community leaders, profound disability children and adolescents, foster families, and other traumatized young orphanages . As the result of these services, there were remarkable positive impacts on people who we have been directly working with as well as people who received the services and support from them in various ways such as self- development, improvement of their personal and professional quality at work and home, improvement of stress management and self-care skill, and gaining knowledge of mental health and other beneficial learning related to their work.

III. Future Plan of the project

  • The project will continue the collaboration with the current partnership organizations and to extend more collaboration with some other NGOs that are working in Cambodia as well as some private sectors that are looking to develop their staff care programs.
  •  The project will develop the first ever arts therapy training in solely Khmer language in 2014 for the social workers, counselors, and staffs who are working in psychosocial sector which will be trained by Cambodian arts therapists.

Thank you so much for your contributions to supporting this vitally important work in Cambodia.  


Songkites 2014 (Euan Gray & Carrie Herbert) 

Introducing Songkites

“I really think my music and the music from Songkites can help young people in Cambodia to believe in who they are and believe in themselves”. Kan Pich (Songkites Season 1)

Songkites supports Cambodian songwriters to write, record and release original songs.

With a focus on encouraging creativity and originality through authentic expression and inspiration, songwriters participate in a series of workshops to explore and develop their creative process. Throughout the workshops they receive individual coaching from professional songwriters and therapeutic support from professional Arts Therapists.  This helps them develop both technical skills and understand and express themselves assertively as they explore life experience in their songwriting.

They then prepare a demo of their original song which is recorded at Songkites Studio. This new song is mixed, mastered and then released internationally.

The experience culminates in a special live performance concert at one of Phnom Penh's best music venues. Each songwriter is then supported to create their own merchandise to accompany and promote their music, given further opportunities to perform and showcase their music and encouraged to be involved with future Songkites programs.

Ultimately, the aim of Songkites is to foster a community of Khmer songwriters who nurture and support each other, and help to promote the emergence of more creative, original, life-affirming music.

Why Songkites?

Cambodia’s most loved traditional kites are called Khleng Ek. Literally meaning 'unique kite', they are celebrated because they produce musical tones as they fly. Traditionally, they are flown to give thanks for bountiful harvests, however the practice was suppressed during the Khmer Rouge period until recently.

Kites are wonderful symbols of freedom and creating original music is about being free; free to be yourself and express yourself authentically through music. Creativity knows no boundaries, yet it too was suppressed in Cambodia's traumatic recent history. Songkites encourages emerging songwriters to take hold of the string, and let their musical kite fly free!

How It Came About

Songkites emerged in the inspiring environment of Ragamuffin Boathouse, an Arts Therapy and Creative Hub in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ragamuffin Co-Directors Carrie Herbert and Kit Loring, both songwriters, have long professed the important role of music in creative and personal development. On the top floor of the building, songwriter, educator, and Ragamuffin’s therapeutic music facilitator, Euan Gray had been setting up a recording studio called Songkites Studio. With their shared passion for encouraging growth through songwriting, Carrie and Euan created the project with the generous assistance of seed funding from a private donor and match funding from BBC Loy 9.

The Venue

The group workshops, rehearsals and performances take place in an inspiring multi-purpose space called 'The Boat Room'. Looking over the boat room is Songkites Studio, recording studio where the songs are created, recorded and mixed. Get in touch if you want to know about our first Album launch and Songkites Season2. 

“Songkites is the place to discover who I am. I knew about music but didn’t know how to make a song from my heart. Jimmy Kiss (Songkites Participant, Season 1)

Studio Recording
Studio Recording
Songkites workshop
Songkites workshop
P2 recording his song
P2 recording his song


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