Last week we received this email from an 8th grade student attending an international school in Asia
"I am writing a report on responses to the challenges of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. I would like to ask one question, Of all the HIV/AIDS project how do you determine if your projects are successful and do you think that you have achieved what you set out to achieve?"
The text below is taken from our reply the student:
1) When we first started our AIDS Patients Family Support Program in 2000,
I feel confident in saying that we fully met that goal as we were able to provide adequate food support and modest housing for all of our women - most of whom had been homeless when they first entered our program.
2) After housing and food support, our "original" next most important goal for the program was
I can definitely confirm that we have met that goal as nearly all of the children in our program did enroll in school and most of them surpassed the grade level (approximately grade 6 or 7) at which poor children in Phnom Penh typically drop out of school.
Last year, for the first time, some of our students completed grade 12 and passed the rigorous examination required to receive a high school graduation certificate in Cambodia. This is a remarkable achievement for children who had formerly been homeless and destitute. Three of our FSP students are currently attending universities in Phnom Penh with sponsorship provided by our program.
This is a remarkable achievement for Cambodian children from such disadvantaged backgrounds.
3) About ten years ago the free antiretroviral medicines,provided by the U.N.'s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria dramatically came to Camboia and increased the life expectancies of our patients.
Now, instead of fighting to keep mom's alive, our energy is to help their children succeed in school. This is a constant challenge because many of our children, having spent part of their young lives homeless and living on the streets, lack an understanding of the role which education can play in their lives. Their mothers - with some exceptions - are largely uneducated women, many of whom cannot even write their own names.Instilling in our children an appreciation for the importance of education is a constant challenge.
Despite our best efforts, we do not and cannot succeed with every child. However, most of our children are attending school and a many of them have excelled, often reaching a class ranking in the top five students in classes which typically include 40 to 50 students.
Here again, the results speak for themselves and I am confident to say that most of our kids have achieved education milestones which would have been unthinkable without the intervention of our program.
.... the work which we do brings many frustrations and disappointments but we never doubt the overall success of our efforts and the impact which those efforts continue to have toward improving the lives and future prospects of some of Cambodia's poorest and most disenfranchised people suffering from AIDS.
If you have any other questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact us.
Mark RosascoPresident, Kasumisou FoundationMenlo Park, Ca., U.S.A.
Back to School Days at the FSP
Mark is on his way to Cambodia tomorrow. It is “Back to School” time for the kids in the FSP. This Fall, 88 students from our FSP will return to school at the end of September . We have a record number of students in High School this year: 19 students in grades 9 ~ 12. This is wonderful! It is rare even for middle class Cambodian students to complete high school, yet we have 5 students from FSP's fragile families who are Seniors this year, on track to graduate in 2013.
I would like to introduce you to one of our High School students, Reaksmey ( pronounced res may ) . Reaksmey is 21 and she is on track to graduate in 2013. You might want to ask me what is so great about a 21 year old High School Senior??? Please, let me tell you Reaksmey’s story.
About Reaksmey- an 8 year journey to success in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
About 8 years ago, when Reaksmey was 13 , she, along with sister Melia age 5, brothers age 15 and 11 and their mother joined our FSP program. A single mother, Pich Srey Mom , had AIDS and had no money to feed her 4 kids.
The situation was dire. They lived in a little 2 room shack made of scrap wood which was shared by an uncle who was dying of AIDS. We gave Mother money for food and we paid school fees. After Uncle died, Mother became very sick, so Mother and her 4 kids moved in with an Aunt’s family. About 4 years ago, Mother had a severe stroke, leaving her paralyzed on one side. Aunt’s family could not care for her, so Mother went to live at the Home of Peace AIDS Hospice.
Although a good student, Reaksmey had to drop out of High School to care for young sister Melia. The 4 children continued to live at Aunt’s home. We paid for food for the kids and for Melia’s school costs. Elder brother soon left - he got a job working on a farm. Shortly after this, Aunt’s husband told the girls to move out. Middle brother could stay if he earned his room and board in Uncle’s tiny metal working shop.
Kasumisou Foundation Family Support Progam ( FSP) stepped in. We rent a small room for the two girls. The two girls’ entire possessions fill just a single laundry size basket. We pay for food , utilities and school fees. We provide active supervision from our Home Care Team. Reaksmey returned to high school! She is an honors student, consistently in the top 5 students in her class. She is also studying English. Reaksmey will graduate from High School in 2013! Younger sister, Melia is now 13 and also in school .
Reaksmey is grateful for all that she has. She “gives back” by working 2 to 3 half days per week as a volunteer for Kasumisou Foundation at the Phnom Penh Municipal Orphanage in the Malnutrition, Therapy and Play room where the most medically fragile children live. She holds, comforts, feeds and plays with the children, some of whom are bed bound and severely handicapped.
Now, age 21, Reaksmey’s dream is to attend college.
It’s been quite a journey for Reaksmey: from a wooden shack to honors student with a dream of college in just 8 years!
The Family Support Program’s long term approach works.
Family Support Program efforts go far beyond providing simple food and shelter. The FSP’s goal is to lift these kids out of poverty through education and social guidance, one life at a time. Your support, your commitment, is what makes this possible. With your help, we can help Reaksmey and others like her , to achieve their dreams.
Our annual budget for the FSP which serves 75 families and 125 dependent children is about $ 110,000 this year and it is challenging to raise these funds year upon year. We are grateful for donations of all sizes. It all makes a difference.
Thank you for your continued commitment. Your generous support is what makes all of this possible.
Barbara and Mark Rosasco
PS Please help us to spread our story by asking your friends to link this site or our kasumisou.org website on their social networking sites.
Behind the scenes at Kasumisou Foundation : How a school service idea gave birth to a project
Summer 2011 saw our first ever joint service effort. Our service team partners were 17 Junior and Senior students from Seisen International School in Tokyo, Japan. We first reported on this in our September 2011 update.
Seisen International School
In June 2011, Mark, organized and facilitated a team of 17 students and 2 Seisen teachers for a 10 day volunteer service program at the Phnom Penh Municipal Orphanage and the Home of Peace AIDS in Phnom Penh. The Seisen Service Team, paid their own way. Their service work was to provide companionship and individual attention to permanently warded children, with mornings spent at the Home of Peace AIDS hospice ( HOP) and afternoons at the Municipal Orphanage ( MO)
On the first day, several Seisen students bravely held back tears as they came to understand the medical reality of the fragile children with whom they would be working. Many of the children at the MO are extremely limited in their mental and physical abilities. All of the children suffer from some type of serious affliction or disability. Some of the children are permanently confined to bed. Due to inadequate funding, these kids often receive little attention beyond the basic custodial care of a diaper change and food. Overworked and understaffed, Staff work burdens do not include time for cuddling and holding. The Seisen Service Team provided a rare treat for these kids to have the individual attention of holding, rocking, or singing that our own children so easily take for granted. Other children at the Home of Peace hospice and the more mobile children at the Orphanage greatly enjoyed a chance for personalized attention, small crafts activities and games.
In May 2011, the European NGO that had provided much of the funding support for Municipal Orphanage said that they must end their support after 10 years to their own funding challenges, leaving dire gaps in funding for essential services for the children at the Orphanage.
Although Kasumisou Foundation continues have its own serious funding challenges, operating its programs on month to month budgets. However, the dire funding needs for the most fragile children at Orphanage, caused Kasumisou Foundation to take on the task of providing supplemental support to the Orphanage. We could already see from the success of our Seisen Service Team that we could make a meaningful difference. We decided to add the “ Malnutrition Room ” room at the Orphanage, which is home to the most medically fragile children who require specialized support for their survival, to our FSP project budget.
While immensely satisfying, this addition to our program roster is also heartrending: we have lost three of these fragile children in the past 6 months.
Our New Project
Our support for the Orphanage includes assuming the salary responsibilities of the two full time staffers who man the Malnutrition Room 24/7. Additionally , we feel that human touch and kindness is an essential part of the care of all children, so we have recruited 3 of our older teenagers from own FSP families. These young women volunteer ½ day of their time 3 to 4 days per week working to play and provide comfort through physical contact to the children. Our young volunteers also serve as helpers with diaper changing and feeding for these and other children at the Orphanage. We pay their transportation costs.
There are currently about 115 children at the Orphanage: 1/3 have AIDS, the remaining children sufferfrom serious medical conditions including Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome and a variety of severe birth defects. Many of these children are bedbound and are not able to feed themselves. Particularly for children with severe CP, feeding can take considerable time. The total cost of the support of the “ Malnutrition Room “ program assistance is $ 6,000 to $ 7,000 per year.
Our Service Team Results
The students and teachers who were on the Seisen Service Team returned to school in the fall, eager to tell about their experience in Cambodia. The enthusiasm of the entire team , both students teachers alike, created an amazing “ Can do” attitude and a willingness to do their best at each and every task. It was the great success of the Seisen Service Team that inspired Kasumisou Foundation to take on the responsibility funding the Malnutrition Room at the Municipal Orphanage and to encourage our own Family Support teenagers to get involved and to give something back to children who are even less fortunate than themselves.
Our sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone at Seisen International School and the entire Service Team for a great joint project. We cannot think of a better way to start a Service Team program.
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.
Barbara & Mark Rosasco
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:
My day began bright and early with Juana – the local staff of the Family Support Program for Kasumisou Foundation. On 20 January 2012, I would be visiting several families benefitting from Kasumisou’s Family Support Program (those affected by HIV).
The first family lived in a Buddhist Temple Pagoda. This family consisted of a young boy affected by HIV and his grandmother who took care of him after his mother passed away due to the virus. I asked her what her life was like before she was taken in by the Kasumisou Foundation – she had been a beggar. Homeless and penniless she took in her grandson after his mother passed and was desperate because he was dying. At a local church they were introduced to Juana and the Kasumisou Foundation, and they were given a small stipend to pay for rent, for food, and education for the young boy. The conditions were she had to stop begging. When I met this family I would have NEVER imagine what they had gone through. She was proud of her grandson’s studies, smiling, and welcoming. I asked what hope she had for her grandson in the future, and she said "for him to finish his studies and become a professional". He responded he hoped the same and loved working with electronics and electricity. His favorite subject was math. She now has a home, electricity, and with therapy the boy has lived to the age of 15. She sells snacks and candy to the local community.
The next home visit consisted of two young girls who lost their mother due to HIV, so were adopted by their mother’s friend. One wanted to be a doctor “to help (listing everyone in her adopted family, Juana, the Kasumisou staff, and sponsorship family who is paying for her education) for free of charge” and the younger one followed with wanting to be a nurse “to help all of Cambodia”. One loved to read and the other draw. Her favorite thing to draw was.. Angry Birds! I was astonished and had to see the drawings - they were amazing. I told them how kids in the US also loved Angry Birds, and at the end of the visit she gave me 2 of her prized drawings. They practiced their english with me, and showed me some of the dance and song they learned at the Apsara Arts program. These were two beautiful and educated young girls with hopes and dreams. I asked Juana what was the likelihood of them receiving education to become doctors, and she said the hope of Cambodia is for youth to graduate 6th grade, if possible 9th (14 years old), and if they are very talented and have the funding then 12th. It is very difficult to attain vocational or university training here. That did not stop these girls from reaching for the stars. I found out after that the eldest of the 2 girls also had HIV.
The final few families ingrained in me the strength of the human spirit. Sampao had been ostracized by her family when her husband died since she had HIV and separated from her children. She was on her deathbed when Kasumisou took her in and instead of accompanying her to die with dignity, Juana was able to “accompany her to life”. When she never expected to live now she travels with Juana home-visiting other families affected with HIV spreading experience and support. The next family was a mother and son both affected. All you could see was their joy and strength – she was able to work since she received therapy and he was a naturally gifted artist. The boy was self taught in drawing and painting with beautiful elaborate pictures of whatever he could get his hands on. The final family’s mother had been blinded by the disease and was supporting her 2 young boys. Kasumisou provided her the opportunity to not have to turn to brothels to make money, but supporting her children through school and allowing her to focus on them.
My overall impression was that this organization was well-run by a small number of local highly trained and skilled staff that work on the ground and report to the 2 founders. The founders visits every few months with not only staff but every project as a whole. It was wonderful to experience how those involved did not differentiate by age, race, or religion (some beneficiaries were Buddhist, some Christain, some attended all temples to receive support and "live long lives") – it was about providing lives with dignity and breaking the cycles of poverty for future Cambodian generations. Currently, they work with 70 families, 180 children within these families, 4 youth in university, and 3 receiving higher studies/vocational training. Hopefully, the rest of the children will have the opportunity to attain all of their hopes and dreams… and maybe even finish university.
For more details and pictures about my visit please visit: JacquelineInTheField
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