Aug 3, 2020

Covid 19: Impact on our students

In response to the Covid-19 threat, the Cambodian  government shut down nearly the entire economy for one month in April. This included all of  the schools and universities.  The COVID virus itself has, to date at least, not seriously impacted Cambodia and many  things are largely back to normal, but  the tourism industry and schools continue to be severely affected.  Recently the government has discussed a phased re-opening of private schools and the complete re-opening of all public schools by November.

Currently, the universities that are attended by our five Kasumisou Scholars students offer only on-line study and  they have not yet given any clear indication as to  when they will resume classroom learning. 

Ms. S  is 22 years old.  She is in the second year of her four year Bachelor’s degree program in International Relations.  All of her classes are conducted in English.  For the time being, all study is online on-line only.  After completing her Bachelor’s degree program she hopes to pursue a graduate degree with the ultimate goal of working in a government ministry.

Ms. S  is  24 years old. She is studying English language education with the ultimate goal of being an English language teacher.  She expects to complete her Bachelor’s degree program by the beginning of 2022.   Currently all of her study is being done on-line and her university has given no clear indication of when they expect to resume classroom teaching. 

Ms. C is 19 years old and she is studying in the first year of a Bachelor’s degree in business. Her school is currently only offering online instruction and like many students in Cambodia and indeed in the US,  she is finding  that  it is too difficult to manage, so she will pause and  take a gap time until in-classroom study resumes. 

Ms. O is 20 years old.  She is currently in the final month of her first year of study at a university specializing in business and government related courses.  She will start her second year of study in October. Currently, all classes at her university are offered only online.  All classes at her university are offered only in Khmer (the Cambodian language) and Ouksa does not speak any English.  Her family has received  support from our AIDS Patient Support program for many years. 

Vichet ( first name)   is 26 year old.  We have  followed the progress of Vichet for a long time. Orphaned by AIDS at a very young age, Vichet has lived with his grandmother and his high school age female cousin. This fragile family has received support from our AIDS Patient Family Support program for approximately 18 years. Vichet worked full time loading trucks ,to help support his family, while studying and  eventually, passing,  the national high school exam at age 24, a prerequisite for attending college. Vichet started college in fall of 2019, continuing to work full time as a delivery truck driver for a company distributing household cleaning and hygiene products in the Phnom Penh area. 

Currently, Vichet’s school offers only online instruction and Vichet  finds it extremely  difficult to keep up.  Under the format used by his school, students  cannot ask questions and students become lost  when there is something which requires further explanation. Vichet will temporarily stop his studies until his school resumes to its original format of in-class instruction.

Your support is important !

The COVID 19 virus  has caused significant challenges for students and  universities around the world,  interrupting the studies of dedicated,  purpose-filled students. Some students are more able  to adapt to the new world  of  on line instruction ,  while other, equally capable students find that online classes do not fully meet their needs. We are hopeful that each one of our students will be able to continue their courses of studies.

All of our students have faced and overcome remarkable challenges to get to this point. Your continued support , believing in their ability to succeed, is important as they continue to work through  today’s challenges, toward their goals.

We are deeply grateful.

 

Barbara  & Mark Rosasco

Jun 22, 2020

Mid-year program update

R, 26 with his grandmother at their market stall
R, 26 with his grandmother at their market stall

 Mid-year program  update

The COVID virus pandemic has had an impact on our programs in Cambodia. For all intents and purposes, Cambodia remains closed to travel from western countries which means that we must rely completely on our team in Cambodia. Our program continues , as it has for some years, to wind down gradually. The families we  continue to support are unable to live independently and would be homeless without our support.  We have not taken on any new patient families in more than five  years.

Our  program supports 17 adult women and 19 children.  The youngest of the women are now in their mid to late thirties and the three oldest ones are in their mid to late seventies.  We cannot be more precise than that because some of the older women are not sure even of their own exact ages. The children range in age from a few months old to  a young man, age 26, who has unique challenges.

The paragraphs below will give you some insight into the lives of three individuals in our program.

The young man we mentioned above,  R, age 26, grew up in our program and he is unable to live on his own.  Many years ago when this young man was about 10 or 12 years old, his mother died in our program,  leaving him and his younger sister in the care of their grandmother.  The boy has been developmentally disabled and cognitively  impaired since birth and he  has the mental capacity of a small child.  His grandmother is completely illiterate.  She and the granddaughter sell vegetables from a tiny space in a local market and  at best, their income from a full day usually totals just a few dollars.  Throughout  April the markets were closed due to the COVID  scare, so the family lost their entire income during that month and was completely reliant on what they received from our program.

By comparison, the youngest child in our program is only a few months old and came into the world as  the result of a rape which occurred in April 2019.  One of our women  in our program, who  suffers from modest mental impairment,  was raped by the husband of her aunt  when she travelled to her home province to celebrate the Cambodian New Year with her relatives. The man has refused to accept responsibility for the child and he provides no support although he does not deny that the baby is his.

Sadly, April 12, on Easter Sunday, Ms. P, a member of our program  almost from  the inception of the program in 2000, passed away. When Ms. P  entered the program she was physically strong enough to work as a laborer on construction sites and, at that time, she had an infant son.  Her baby had contracted the HIV virus at birth and he died while still a toddler.  The mother eventually suffered from mental illness which grew progressively more serious as she got older.  At the time of her death she was receiving antipsychotic medicines from one of the large hospitals in Phnom Penh.  We do not know the official cause of death because she died while an inpatient in the hospital and her nephew came from the countryside to carry the body of his aunt back to her home village for cremation.

Each person described in this update, has faced challenges that we would find unimaginable. Without our program’s  support, each of  these fragile individuals would have been homeless and suffered greatly. Our program  provides  the opportunity for them to live a life of basic dignity, with a roof over their head and enough to eat.  Your kindness  continues to help maintain these individuals and families   on their difficult  journey through life and we are deeply grateful to you all for your support.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

In memory of Ms. P
In memory of Ms. P
Jun 8, 2020

COVID 19 UPDATE AT CHAMPEY

CAA Music class
CAA Music class

 

As with every school and nearly every business in Cambodia, the Covid-19 virus has dealt a serious blow to our operations at Champey Academy of Arts.  By late March the Cambodian government had ordered all government schools to close in order to prevent the spread of the virus and nearly all private schools then also closed and remain closed even now.  Reluctantly, we closed Champey Academy for the last three weeks of April but then reopened by the first week of May. However, student attendance in May ran only about half of our usual rate because many parents, fearing that their children might be exposed to the virus, kept them at home and did not allow them to attend classes at Champey. 

Now, as we enter the second week of June student attendance is slowly increasing as it becomes clear that, at least for the time being, Cambodia has avoided any serious impact from Covid-19.  In fact, since the start of the contagion, a total of only about 120 cases of Covid-19 infection and no resulting deaths have been confirmed in Cambodia.

At this point it looks as though the greatest impact from the virus at Champey Academy will be on our revenues from tourist visitors and outside performances.  The tourism high season in Cambodia runs from late October through mid April and during that time we welcome to Champey Academy foreign tourist groups on  a daily basis.  The guests pay a small admission fee and often also put something extra in the donation boxes at the school .  This  money covers a very significant portion of our operating expenses during each month of the tourism high season.  However, this year, the government closed the country to most foreign nationals beginning from mid March and that meant that, at Champey Academy, we lost all of the revenues from foreign guests for the final four weeks of this year’s ‘high season.’  What’s more, because we expect that this year the start of the tourism high season will be delayed from October until at least the beginning of 2021, we are facing a loss of revenues from tourists which we estimate will be at least $12,000 to $18,000 or equal to approximately 20 to 25 per cent of our annual operating expenses. 

In addition to the devastating loss of revenues from tourist visitors, Cambodia’s annual “wedding season” peaks in March and April and which  usually brings a number of invitations for our dancers and musicians to perform at wedding parties.  The revenue earned from outside performances at weddings combined with the occasional invitation to perform at hotels in Phnom Penh usually brings us at least a few thousand dollars each year so the cancellation of all of those events this year represents the loss of an additional approximately 5% of our operating budget. 

Finally, every year in April, in the days preceding the annual Cambodian New Year, our students and teachers receive many invitations to perform a traditional New Year dance called the “Trot.”  This dance is meant to bring good fortune in the New Year and so many businesses including hotels and even vendors in the city’s markets invite our team to perform it on their premises.  Part of that New Year dance involves the passing of a cloth bag through the audience who are expected to put money into the bag in order further to insure their good fortune in the New Year.  This year, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the government cancelled all Cambodian New Year celebrations so all of our invitations to perform the “Trot” dance were rescinded resulting in a further loss of $2,000 or more in income for our school and our students and staff. 

In total, we anticipate that the impact of the global Covid-19 crisis on Champey Academy will be the loss of income equal to at least 30% of our annual operating expenses.  This is a devastating blow and one from which it will be very difficult to recover.  As a first step, we cut all of the staff members’ salaries by 15% effective from May 1.  The loss of that portion of their salaries, while very painful for the staff, will save Champey Academy only about one quarter of our expected revenue loss this year. 

As you can see, Champey has been deeply impacted, but we are hopeful that our students will return as the world adjusts to the " new nomal" and  that Cambodia will see a return of turism. In the meantime,  Champey faces seriousl challenges to keep is programs operating without interruption.  We are deeply grateful to you, our donors for your continued support to help us to keep the school open. This school serves not only the children in our programs, but the small stipend and other family support is essential to the continued well being of many for many of our student's family.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco 

Caa Dance Class
Caa Dance Class
 
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