Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids

 
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Your support DOES make a difference!

We are often asked how we know can tell if our programs really make a difference. Sometimes it seems that the changes are so slow as to be almost invisible.

Bit by bit, week by week, child by child, we  help  fragile families in our AIDS Patient Family Support Program stay together, insure that  they  have enough to eat, have access to medical care, and that  the children are safe to survive and thrive. And, we keep the kids in school. The progress is agonizingly slow, but the wait is worth it!   The combined  success of these efforts goes far beyond simple survival.   

This year, 2012 , we saw 5 students  in our Aids Patient Family Support Program graduate from High School and enter college .We were fortunate to find sponsors for that  first year's tuition.  In 2013 we have 6 more students on track to graduate from High School. We have  another 13 now in grades 9 through 11.  This is an amazing result from a group of  just   90 school age in the FSP program. We have another 4 students in a rural project in Prey Veng Province who have also just graduated from High School.

Let's put it in context: Many of the moms in our FSP program  are illiterate and they do not understand the importance of education. This is where we come in.  We get it! We know that just 27% of kids in Cambodia graduate from high school and  only 40% of students finish middle school,  so getting through grade 12 is a big accomplishment ! We have emphasized education from the beginning and now it is really beginning to show results.  Yes! We are so proud of our kids! From " throw away, homeless slum  kid" to high school graduate! Now onward to college student!

The academic success of our FSP students has all been made possible by the generous contributions  of you, our supporters.

Now, we face  a  new challenge ahead:  funding college .  Truthfully, we never planned for it. It was not on our horizon. Yes, we thought that perhaps one or two kids might make it, but 15??

We will need to find 2013  funding for our 5  current college students , plus college funding for 6 more new  high school graduates in 2013 . We also have 4 students from our Rural Assistance  program ( wish serves the rural poor)  who are also dreaming of attending college. From modest rural families, two new High School graduates  are  working  construction for $ 3.00 a day to support themselves. College dreams will be lost unless we can raise funding for these and our other high school graduates.

Though costs are low - about $ 500-$800  per year for tuition and books per student and room and board for some,  it adds up   to a total of 15 college students in all in 2013!

We have just posted a new  project # 12004 , Build Dreams! Send Cambodian Students to College which will become an ongoing program to help our high school graduates and  students realize their dreams and go on to college.

What a journey: from homeless and  poor in an FSP family to college student. Together, we can accomplish such  amazing things and this is a wonderful example!

Thank you  for making this possible for our kids! They are your kids too. Your support has gotten them this far. Let's take them the rest of the way!

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

PS. Please check with your company to see if they will match any or part of your 2012 donations.

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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,

  • there was very little care available for poor and homeless AIDS patients in Phnom Penh
  • the life saving antiretroviral medicines which were in use in developed nations were not  available in Cambodia. 
  • many of the patients who entered our program  died within weeks or months of joining us.
  •  our primary goal was to help these women to live as comfortably as possible  and  
  • to die with some dignity inside of their own homes and  not lying on a sidewalk somewhere in Phnom Penh. 


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

  • to enroll the children of our AIDS afflicted women (some of those children were also suffering from AIDS) in school and
  • require that they attend school rather than begging on the streets. 


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 Rosasco
President, Kasumisou Foundation
Menlo Park, Ca., U.S.A. 

Back to School Days  at the FSP

September 2012

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.

With gratitude,

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.

 

Seisen student comforts infant at City Orphanage
Seisen student comforts infant at City Orphanage

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. 

Background

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.

Making a connection....
Making a connection....
Patience and encouragement make meals  happier
Patience and encouragement make meals happier
Contentment....
Contentment....
Individual attention is a rare pleasure
Individual attention is a rare pleasure
A gentle touch overcomes language differences
A gentle touch overcomes language differences
Kay
Kay's house is on the right,

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's Story....

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

Grandmother, 85, sits inside the one room house.
Grandmother, 85, sits inside the one room house.
Kay & grandmother inside their house
Kay & grandmother inside their house

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Organization

Kasumisou Foundation

Menlo Park, California, United States
http://www.kasumisou.org

Project Leader

Barbara Rosasco

Secretary/Treasurer
Menlo Park, Ca. United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids