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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