Senhoa Foundation

Supporting vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking by providing income-generating opportunities, social reintegration, and programs for self-empowerment. We believe in: - Income generation so that vulnerable women can gain economic independence. - Educational and social programs for intellectual empowerment. - Using business sensibilities to achieve humanitarian goals.
Apr 15, 2014

Changing Lives, Including My Own: An Expat's Journey at LKC in Cambodia

In this first update on the Lotus Kids' Club, we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you Stephen Mojica's experience at LKC. He started as a volunteer, but have since become one of the main leaders at LKC. We hope you enjoy reading his transformative story.

From Team Senhoa

"I have been with Senhoa’s Lotus Kids’ Club for just over a year. I have been in Siem Reap for almost 2 years. It has been wonderful working with the dedicated folks of Senhoa, both Westerners and Khmers. There are challenges of course, yet the success of the program due to the hard working Khmer staff far outweigh those challenges. Watching the children grow and learn and seeing the joy on their faces as they gain knowledge and have fun is almost indescribable. As many people coming to Cambodia my goal was to help the people in any way that was most useful. I was lucky to eventually find a place that made the best use of my knowledge and experience, almost 25 years working with children and families. Thank you Senhoa.

My initial role was to help set up the preschool space, add to the learning materials and teach the teachers about early childhood development/education in the pre-school program. I have also been involved in the development of the Community Afternoon Program, which serves children 3-18 year olds. I help with the decision making and general direction of LKC. However let me state that the director, Sophy, is quite capable and is a good problem solver who has great ideas and vision. The teachers also are amazingly fast learners and have been accepting of this ‘new’ way of teaching and working with children. Naturally skeptical at first of implementing these ‘barang’ ideas regarding children they have come to accept and even embrace the methods after seeing positive changes in the children.

And of course for all of us we are doing the work to help the children and the families of this community that so desperately need support. So let me give some examples of our work.

I've watched so many of the children grow and learn. On her 1st day one girl just stood by the door and sobbed. The next couple of days she gradually moved closer, observing the action. By week's end she was cautiously participating. In the next several weeks she would mostly play alone, eventually she joined others in play. She didn't seem to talk or smile though. This gradually changed after a few months and now she's made friends, she'll sing songs, and often will flash smiles. She's bloomed thanks to the patience and support of the teachers. She’s a bright, organized kid who will attend the best primary school in the Fall. A tough school to get into but accomplished through Sophy’s thoughtful persistence. My guess is she’ll excel.

There's one little guy who was a challenge not wanting to participate in activities, starting conflicts with other kids and generally vying for attention with negative behavior. He seemed to have a face of anger and sadness. It took a little time but this is the kid now who is the 1st to help clean up at program's end. And I love his boisterous laugh. He's still a bit of a wise guy though now it's not mean spirited but joyful. It reinforced my beliefs about young children and how they gain confidence and make appropriate choices if they are in the right environment with caring and supportive teachers. He will also attend school in the Fall and I have no doubt he’ll be a willing learner.

I think about the 2 little guys who were in conflict it seemed constantly. After weeks of appropriate support and intervention these 2 guys are the best of buddies, of course with occasional conflicts but usually easily resolved. They are the 2 kids that are constantly on the move and together find ways to use materials and equipment creatively. I wish I knew what they talk to each other about, they seem to be always jabbering about something as they play. These kids have shown me once again that my ideas may be ok but they have their own agenda. I brought in pieces of hose and funnels for the water table thinking they'd be great to pour the water through. They used them as a telephone line talking and listening to each other through the hoses and funnels and laughing hysterically. They both can be focused on an activity for long periods now also, one prefers building w/ legos, the other likes puzzles. They are fun to watch. They will continue in our pre-school program for another year.

These are just a few examples of the wonderful work the teachers are doing. In the pre-school program our goals are to get the children ready to learn, ready for school. We want them to have a thirst for knowledge, the confidence and persistence to succeed and a belief that they are competent, valued individuals. The belief that they can make a difference in their lives and in the world is what we try to instill in them.

The Community Afternoon Program has become a successful and popular program. Lately we will have up to 40 kids attending a session. We struggled at first trying to figure out how can we make this work with such a large age span, 3-18. After many discussions and experimenting with different ideas we have developed a program that can address the needs of the varied aged kids. I admit I was always reluctant to work with older children but these kids have taught me how much fun and satisfying that work can be.

I am truly impressed with the older kids. Their creativity, intelligence and talents are a wonderful surprise. There are several kids that show real artistic abilities. We've recruited a few of those kids to help lead activities for the kids. One young girl around 12 or 13 has lead a craft project bringing in her own idea. We are trying our best to support and encourage these children as they all live in challenging conditions and live hand to mouth with the real possibility of not having enough to eat. Yet these kids are thoughtful, caring and still have a zest for life. I think and hope we are providing a way to express themselves or at the very least learn about who they are and what potential they have. I'm talking about all the kids not just the artistically talented ones but the kid who masters the hula hoop or completes a complicated puzzle. I hope we provide experiences that boost self confidence and lead children on a path to success in whatever they endeavor to accomplish. In any case big kids are fun.

Recently the teachers began teaching cooking one day and sewing another couple days. The teachers started these sessions after brainstorming different ideas. They just took off with the ideas which are popular and clearly a success, we may need another sewing machine soon.

After a year my role with LKC is changing. The teachers are well equipped to run the programs without my direct support. I will continue to teach about childhood development/education introducing more in depth concepts. I will continue to be involved in the planning and decision making. I have already introduced the practice of supervision for the teachers. And I have started and will continue to teach Ratha, the Social Worker, the principles and challenges of Social Work. I will spend more time enriching the programs including the professional and educational development of the staff. Perhaps I will eventually work myself out of my job. Sustainability is the mantra here and it will be a good thing.

Please understand the teachers have little if any formal training in teaching young children. They are caring and willing to learn and as I said do well with the children. Ratha, who also teaches, is the designated Social Worker, though with very little professional training. Fortunately he seems to have a natural affinity for Social Work. What I mean by that is that his sensibilities and demeanor seem to be in line with Social Work principles. He seems to gain rapport easily with parents and appears non-judgemental in his manner. He is great with the kids, caring, calm, gentle but firm. So you may wonder how do I know this considering I do not understand Khmer. Well communication is about 90% non-verbal. Also I see him interact with parents and kids, the kids especially just appear to trust him. At the monthly parent meeting/rice giveaway he always seems to get the parents laughing at the start of his talk. You can learn some of those basic Social Work skills but it's good to have some naturally.

Let me close by commending the great working relationship I have with Debra, the Country Director. Her hard working ethic, caring and dedication to the success of LKC has made my job easier and inspired me to give my all. Deb is so very supportive with a perspective that is most useful. She is a bright and lovely young women with many talents. I also have to commend Lisa and Anh, the folks who make it all possible from thousands of miles away. I feel so very supported and welcomed in my work with Senhoa. Their hard work and dedication to the families and too kind words regarding my work are also an inspiration and greatly appreciated. Yes I am lucky to be a part of Senhoa, thanks.

Stephen Mojica Senhoa LKC Project Consultant"

Feb 7, 2014

Day One

Artisans at work
Artisans at work

In early 2013, Senhoa carried out vigorous Monitor and Evaluations (M&Es) of our programs in Cambodia to ensure that they were delivered to the service users’ satisfaction, as well as adhered to our core mission. Today, we share with you here our M&E results for the Senhoa Jewelry Program and their follow-ups.

The Senhoa Jewelry Program (lovingly named OOH – Our Own Hands) was initially conceptualized as a shelter-retention program. Very early on when we did our needs assessment, it was decided that a vocational training program was needed where the women could gain instant skills and quickly have access to income-generating opportunities, all while they were receiving social and therapeutic services from our shelter partners. Jewelry making and beading were chosen for  ease of skill acquisition, as they required little to no education. This was befitting because many of the women in the program lacked formal education and literacy. 

During the M&E sessions for the OOH program, there was an overwhelming request for full time employment from the service users. Many of the women in the program expressed a desire for viable employment and an opportunity to enter into full-time work as Artisans. 

To respond to these concerns, over the past six months, the OOH program has functioned as a training and transition program to recruit and prepare Trainees to become Artisans for Senhoa Social Enterprise. At the end of the program, Trainees will have a command of basic to intermediate jewelry making skills and knowledge about being good employees. The training period has been used to transition Trainees/Artisans from “service users” into “full-time/part-time employees” for Senhoa Social Enterprise.

On January 1, 2014, we officially started Day 1 of the social business in Cambodia. Our former service users are now full time and part-time employees of the social enterprise, with access to an array of employee benefits and entitlements like access to a health fund, sales bonuses, annual leave and compassionate leave. Furthermore, the artisans work in a safe and secure environment with fair wage salary and educational opportunities. And last but not least, proceeds from the sale of Senhoa jewelry go back to supporting Senhoa Foundation’s community development programs in Cambodia. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Senhoa Social Enterprise is now able to focus on designing, manufacturing and retailing high quality fashion accessories for the Senhoa brand, the OOH by Senhoa brand (a lower-priced line available for sale in Cambodia), and partner labels. Our dream is to be able to have our jewelry sold around the world in department stores, to be able to subcontract to make jewelry for private labels and most importantly, to be able to provide jobs for vulnerable women. We do this with the unfailing belief that access to dignified and safe employment is the most powerful armor to protect women from exploitation and human trafficking.

Artisan at work
Artisan at work
Charmed by Senhoa pendant necklace
Charmed by Senhoa pendant necklace
Tara Teng, Miss World Canada, in Kelly necklace
Tara Teng, Miss World Canada, in Kelly necklace

Links:

Nov 11, 2013

Updates from Cambodia Programs

There is much exciting news from the last quarter regarding our programs in Cambodia!  First of all, the Lotus House is at full occupation.  The Lotus House is a safe house for young women who have been subjected to violence or exploitation.  With a focus on restoration and reintegration, Lotus House primarily receives referrals from NGOs or relevant bodies after a woman has received initial crisis services, such as legal support and health checks.  We are so happy to be able to help the most women to our capacity at the time being.

A second Lotus Kids' Club has opened in October.  We serve an additional 25 families with this second location, now helping a total of 68 families (with the first LKC). Our early-intervention on human trafficking and education program has grown considerably since 2010 and includes a Pre-School Program, a Sponsorship Program, a Family Program and a Community Drop-In Program.  We also underwent a Monitor & Evaluation with This Life Cambodia to evaluate the program and also identify areas in which we are succeeding and areas we still need to improve upon.

The evaluation findings are here: The cross-cultural component of the LKC program, which involves bringing together Vietnamese and Khmer children and their families to learn and socialize, has proven highly successful.  Although this aspect of the program has created some challenges for staff, it has also been one of the most rewarding aspects of the program, with most LKC staff and parents praising this component of the program for creating more harmony and solidarity in the community.  Furthermore, the Pre-School Program appears to be very successful in terms of preparing children for entry to primary school, and providing nutritional supplements and health care.  The Sponsorship Program, on the other hand, while successfully providing opportunities for Pre-School Program children to continue their schooling, has been shown to require extra resources and support for children and their families to ensure children can stay at school.  The Family Program was reported to be very successful in terms of education sessions being useful for participants, and all families appreciating the 16kg of rice provided monthly, however, all parents reported they would continue to attend education sessions even if they weren't receiving rice.  The Community Drop-In Program whilst successfully providing recreational activities for up to 50 children four times a week, does however, have many issues that require addressing in order for this component of the program to be delivered successfully for program beneficiaries.  It is recommended that Senhoa and LKC should spend a considerable amount of time and energy focused on clarifying the purpose of this aspect of LKC, to ensure the best possible outcomes for children attending this program.  Finally, in terms of program beneficiaries, this evaluation has highlighted how important health care checks have been in determining health issues and prevention, with more than 2/3 of children showing dental decay issues, and 1/3 requiring vision re-testing.  Ensuring health check processes are consistent and tailored to the needs of program beneficiaries would however improve the outcomes for children.

Our third field program, the Jewelry/Life Skills Program, is a holistic rehabilitation program that prepares survivors of human trafficking and other marginalized women for reintegration. We offer two components of training: Jewelry Vocational Training and Life-Skills Training.  This program is now moving forward to become a social enterprise.  We have partnered with Siem Reap hotelier Shinta Mani to staff 15 full-time artisans (who will also receive health and paid holidays benefits) to create beatiful jewelry for the Senhoa LLC line, co-brands, and the Our Own Hands line (orginal pieces designed by the artisans themselves as opposed to our Creative Director or collaborators).  We are very excited as we take on this new project.  We are so happy to be able to provide full-time employment for all of the trainees and artisans in our program (the trainees will graduate from their program to become artisans and/or supervisors in December 2013).  We look forward to further building the jewelry program so that we can continue to provide employment and benefits, education and scholarships to private school for the girls in the program.

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