Channa, 17, a member of our program, passed away July 11,2014 in Phnom Penh.
Channa and her family have received support via our “ Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for their Children” program which is posted on GlobalGiving. Our first encounter with Channa came when her family began participation in Kasumisou Foundation's AIDS Patient Family Support Program ( FSP) in 2002.
Channa was HIV positive from birth. She was about 4 when she and her mom joined our program . In 2000,when Kasumisou Foundation's AIDS Patient Family Support Program began, about 40% of our parent program members with HIV/AIDS died within 12 months of joining our program. Although it often took longer for children to become symptomatic, without treatment options, these children’s lifetimes were often brief once they fell ill. In mid 2002,we began to be able to provide the new life prolonging anti-retroviral drugs to moms and kids as funding and the drugs became more widely available.
Channa and her mother were both able to receive drug support once the drugs became available. For years we provided housing and food support for the family and Channa and her family lived a hard but reasonably stable life. We supported Channa's school attendance and as a youngster, she attended various activities and outings sponsored by our program.
Her mother also worked very hard, when her health permitted , to try to provide for the family, but even with the assistance of our program, Channa’s family remained mired in poverty. As Channa grew older and became a teenager, she became quite despondent about her life. Channa decided to stop going to school. Although HIV positive, she also decided to stop taking the drugs that had suppressed her illness. Despite our home care team’s urgent efforts to engage Channa and persuade her to change her mind and restart her treatment , she remained depressed. For a while, as a teenager, we were able to persuade Channa to work as a youth volunteer with children residing at the National Orphanage. The children who reside at the National Orphanage are generally those who are categorized as “ unadoptable” due to health issues such as serious physical and mental impairment and/or their HIV status. Channa seemed to enjoy her work there and we were told that she had a wonderful way with the resident children. But after several months , Channa decided to stop her volunteer work and her health continued to decline.
Kasumisou Foundation has for years, provided the required "stable lifestyle" for hundreds of homeless patients, moms and kids, providing housing, food, social support and guidance to help patients like Channa and her mom. The stable lifestyle, our program’s social support and access to medical care kept this fragile family, Channa, her younger brother and her mom, together. Her mother remains in the program, caring for Channa's younger brother, who is now in middle school.
The assistance provided by our program changed Channa's story and those of many others over the years from a nameless short life and early death on the streets attributed to poverty and HIV/AIDS to lives, however brief, that were respected and that had meaning.
A little girl of just 4 years old when she joined our program, Channa was able to live with her mother and her brother, as a family, for 12 years. Although her life’s journey was extremely difficult, in her younger years we know that she had some happy times and in her teen years she still managed to bring some comfort to the children she helped at the National Orphanage. Despite her hardships, she made a difference to others. Although there are limits to what our program can change, our program's help gave Channa and her family 12 years together. In the end, although our efforts could not save Channa’s life, her life was not without respect or meaning and she did not die alone and unattended.
The kind generosity of our donors makes it possible for us to try to bring comfort, support and meaning to the lives of fragile families facing the twin challenges of HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty and who are struggling at a level that is unthinkable for us. Each one of you, our donors, is the lifeline that makes this possible. And so we ask you to join us and to remember Channa.
Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your kindness.
Barbara & Mark
Our title starts with "On the edge" . Our report will give three examples of young people who are at a crossroads and who are " on the edge" of change.
Since 2000 our project has helped destitute moms with AIDS ( in Phnom Penh, Cambodia ) care for their kids through our AIDS Patient Family Support Program ( FSP). We have stepped in hundreds of times to provide modest housing and the social support that is essential to create a stable family lifestyle . We have rescued mothers and their children who are living rough on the streets , we have provided transitional housing to mothers snatched from death and returned to fragile but better health by the care of Sisters at a local AIDS hospice and we have stepped in to prevent families from becoming homeless.
But far beyond these essential services, our goal is to help children to stay in school and to help them see that there is a different life beyond the mean streets of the slums where they live. We want to give these kids the opportunity to break the cycle of inherited poverty. Key to that effort is the family support that we provide by actively monitoring the condition of each of our patient families through weekly or more frequent visits and providing additional support when needed.
We are so pleased that we have two students who are just finishing their high school studies and who will sit for the national high school examination in August. Both students have a dream of passing the exam and qualifying for entry in to college in the fall. Both have been in our FSP program and under our care for more than 10 years. Ravin, age 18, dreams of studying Chemistry and food science. Vichet, age 20, comes from Anlung Kgang settlement and wants initially to study English. If they pass their high school exams, both will become candidates for our college tuition program and Jobs for Cambodian Youth program.
Another young person in our program, age 14 , is facing an extremely serious and complex struggle. This young lady lives in a deteriorating family situation that may be on the edge of complete breakdown. Already quite fragile, the mother in this family has become extremely unstable mentally . It is not unusual for HIV/AIDS to cause dementia. We are unsure as to the precise cause of this mental illness, but it is taking a toll on 14 year Srey Maol. Never a strong student, she has fallen so far behind that she has dropped out of school and may likely not be able to return. A further concern is that she is exposed to a steady and frequent stream of new boyfriends by her mother’s sister. Srey Mao and her mother live with this aunt. Neither mother nor aunt value education and so we are gravely concerned. We trying to find effective measures to help stabilize the situation including the serious challenge presented by the mother's deteriorating mental health of finding an alternative to the current housing situation.
One temporary solution is to find activities to occupy Srey Mao during daytime hours. We have decided that a possible temporary replacement to school could be full day class participation at our Champey Academy of Arts. This would provide structure 6 days a week and help her build self esteem. It will also keep Srey Mao out of the house and give her a break from the constant stress of her mother’s illness and keep her away from her aunt’s boyfriends who are hanging around.
We are not sure we can “ win” this one, but we are trying hard to find solutions with the hope that bit by bit we can turn this situation around, or perhaps place this young girl on a different track of art, music or dance and exposure to stable adults.
Without your support, we would not have two newly graduating highschool students, and our young friend would be a just a tiny step away from a wasted life. Instead, we have two students with hopes of college, and young girl for whom we will try our best to keep moving forward to a better life.
Our heartfelt thanks to you all for your continued support of our efforts!
Barbara & Mark Rosasco
Update on AIDS Patient Family Support Program: What’s new in 2014
As we mentioned in previous updates , we have been working for more than one year to reduce our patient family load significantly. Our reasons were two fold: not only were we aware that some families’ living situations allowed for a decrease in assistance, freeing scarce resources for other participants, but also a reaction to the continuation of serious escalation in costs in our program of necessities . Off setting reduced numbers of patient families has been the significant upward trend of housing and food costs. Rents are going up with increases of 25% to 50% not uncommon for the extremely modest single room and tiny flats we provide. Food prices also continue to rise , with an approximate average increase in costs of 25% to 30% over the past year.
At the current time, our FSP census lists 38 families with 42 children of which 36 are in school and 6 are not yet of school age. Costs of the school kits that we provide to the children have risen by approximately 20% over the past year ( books, uniform, shoes). Of the children in school, 6 are HIV positive. We are so proud to be able to tell our donors that that three of our FSP families now have children in college!
Additional challenges are the simple fact that many of the children are now older, and as is the case universally, pre-teens and teenagers require a much greater degree of supervision and monitoring to keep them safe and on track at this critical time. Our focus on keeping dependent children in school remains as a key goal for 2014.
Medical treatment and medication now broadly available has allowed many of our families to continue to maintain an extended period of relative stability allowing children to grow up in a family setting. We feel that we have been successful in achieving our basic mission of assisting fragile families ( primarily single parent) to stay together . Cambodia’s recent civil unrest been quelled by a government response making the protests illegal
Lee Bopha , our new home care coordinator has capably stepped in to her new responsibilities. Bopha, a Cambodian and trained teacher in her mid-20’s , hae worked closely for several years with Juana Encolada, our longtime and beloved home care coordinator who returned to the Maryknoll order at the end of 2013.
We are grateful that our program is able to continue on to help the children in these families strive to break the cycle of inherited poverty.
As always , we are deeply grateful to you, our generous donors for your wonderful support.
Update on AIDS Patient Family Support Program: Continuing the transition to independent living…
As we mentioned in our last update, our focus over the past year has turned to identifying those members of the FSP who are poorest and sickest and who have no means of support. This should reduce our patient family load significantly. We are now in the process of revising our budgets for 2014-2015. Off setting reduced numbers of patient families will be the never ending upward trend of housing and food costs, which were key factors in trying to reduce our patient family load. Over the past year, we have actively worked to assess which families should be capable, of a successful transition to independence or a transition toward receiving the support of their own extended families
Over the years during which the FSP has been active, we have grateful that due to the continuing advancement and accessibility of medical treatment to victims of HIV/AIDS. Medical treatment and medication has allowed many of our families to experience a long period of relative stability allowing children to grow up in a family setting. We feel that we have been successful in achieving our basic mission of assisting fragile families ( primarily single parent) to stay together . Our focus on keeping dependent children in school remains as a key goal for 2014.
In recent weeks, Cambodia had unexpectedly experienced significant civil unrest due to a contested national election. This seems to be developing into an ongoing situation with calls from the opposition party for daily demonstrations, which unfortunately can become unpredictably violent. In the past, this type of unrest had a spill over effect into areas such as personal safety which could impact tourism and industry and impact donor sentiment.
In 2014 we will welcome Lee Bopha as our new home care coordinator. Bopha, a Cambodian and trained teacher in her mid-20’s , has worked closely for several years with Juana Encolada, our longtime and beloved home care coordinator. Juana will be returning to her previous calling as a Sister with Maryknoll order after a 14 year hiatus, during which time she worked for us in our AIDS Patient Family Support Program.
As always , we are deeply grateful to you, our generous donors for your kind support.
Mark is in Cambodia where he is engaged in a detailed review of our programs. His particular area of focus is our AIDS Patient Family Support Program ( FSP) , which helps indigent families and mothers impacted by extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Returning to the heart of our initial mission statement for the FSP in 2000, our focus over the past year has turned to identifying those members of the FSP who are poorest and sickest and who have no means of support.
Over the years during which the FSP has been active, we have grateful that due to the continuing advancement and accessibility of medical treatment to victims of HIV/AIDS, the families in our FSP have been able to stay together longer. Rather than losing mothers and family members to AIDS in a few months, medical treatment and medication has allowed many of our families to experience an unprecedented long period of relative stability and some, while not well, have been able to remain in our care for several years.
We have been able to achieve our basic mission of assisting fragile families ( primarily single parent) to stay together and live an extremely modest lifestyle. Additionally, our effort and focus on keeping dependent children in school has paid off. We not only can claim a significant number of high school graduates among the children who have been members of our FSP over the years, but also several college students and recently 2 college graduates.
Over the past year, we have actively worked to assess which families should be capable, in the short term, of a transition to independence or a transition toward receiving the support of their own extended families. We have identified a number of families who fit in these categories. Dependent children have now grown up and completed school, and in some instances, are able to earn enough to support the family. In recent years, the Cambodian economy has continued to recover from the devastation of a civil war now decades past. The economy has added factory and other jobs and shows some signs of continued prospects for growth. We feel that this improved economy should allow relatives to step forward now and assume responsibility or provide assistance to some members of our FSP. Now as we approach the end of 2013, we are actively working to put an action plan in place to move toward this goal.
In recent days, Cambodia has unexpectedly experienced significant civil unrest due to a contested national election. This may spill over into areas such as personal safety which could impact tourism and industry and impact donor sentiment. Stability has and will be a key factor aiding or impeding our efforts.
Mark will return to the US on October 3. After that time we should be able to provide additional updates.
Our sincere thanks to our donors for their generous support.
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