Feb 25, 2019

Simple joys-Update from Mark's visit to Phnom Penh

Curry party at Champey
Curry party at Champey

Global Giving update for February 25, 2019

Mark is currently in Phnom Penh visiting our programs and this is Mark’s report.

On Saturday, February 23, our head dance teacher, assisted by a couple of her students, prepared a lunch of chicken curry, baguette bread and rice noodles for about fifty students and some of the staff of Champey Academy.

That afternoon the school’s director and I made home visits to meet the families of six of our current students. One was the family of a student, a little 10 year old girl whose family which consists of  her mother and two siblings and who live in a scrapwood shack that is suspended over a drainage pond in a neighborhood of central Phnom Penh. Alas, even this humble shack may be quite temporary as it is in a neighborhood which is increasingly being taken over by brand new high rise apartment buildings, but for now... this is their  home.

This family of four ( three kids and mom) lives in a single room which, incredibly, measures barely eight feet square . There is no private bathroom and no kitchen. The children’s father is in prison, serving a 2 to 3 year term for drug use and their mother struggles every day to support the family by selling birdseed - actually just cracked corn - in front of the Royal Palace.

During our visit to their home, the girl’s mother told us that the child (age 10) had been so excited about the curry lunch which she would be enjoying with her Champey classmates the next day, that she had been unable to sleep at all on the previous night.

The immense value of a safe space 

Although daily classes at Champey finish at 5:00PM, when I left the school at around 6:30PM on  Saturday, there were  many students remaining in the art classroom who were still working on their drawings and paintings and the dance stage was still filled with young students playing and laughing and enjoying the company of their classmates.

 Let’s put these simple snapshots in context….

Consider, for a moment, the story which the mother told me that afternoon of her daughter’s excitement about the next day’s ‘curry party’. Think, for a moment, about the many students lingering at Champey long, long after classes had finished for the day. Both stories give voice to an important truth that Champey Academy of Arts, in addition to the many benefits of arts education which we offer our students, offers a safe space for many of our kids. Although their home lives are truly,  utterly bleak, Champey also offers a safe gathering place where our students can, for just a little bit, remain after class in a clean, safe place to enjoy being among their friends and delay for a while  , returning to the reality of crushing poverty and impoverished homes.

Our heartfelt thanks ! 

We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Elementary School Student Council at the Tokyo American School for their generous gift which will sponsor six curry lunches this year for the Champey students and staff.

Please keep in mind, when you see photos of  our beautifully costumed dancers at the Raffles Hotel, or a display of  the artwork of our talented students, it is easy to forget the challenging circumstances that many of our students experience each day. Their artistic accomplishments would be remarkable in a typical middle class community in the US or Europe. Consider, however, that these accomplishments are achieved by students who face remarkable adversity and great challenges.  However,  their personal standards of achievement are so high that we can easily forget the amazing accomplishments that our students achieve despite extreme adversity

Because of you, our donors...

None of this could be possible without the support of you, our wonderful donors. Please accept our heartfelt thanks and appreciation on behalf of our students and teachers for your wonderful support. We hope that you will continue with us on this exciting journey and continue your  support our wonderful students and staff.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

Students enjoy curry lunch party at Champe
Students enjoy curry lunch party at Champe


Feb 25, 2019

Life lines....

Ms V  , age 70+
Ms V , age 70+

Life lines then ( 1998 ) and now ( 2019 ) 

When we started this work 21 years ago,  much of the center of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, was covered by large slum neighborhoods comprised often of shacks constructed from cardboard, scrap wood and rusted sheets of corrugated metal.   Many of our earliest FSP patients and their families lived in those slums. Today, though, the city is a vast construction zone with new high rises going up in every neighborhood and construction cranes looming over the remaining slum areas.

Many of the poorest residents have been forced to relocate to areas far outside of the city center as the old slum neighborhoods were cleared to make way for new development. Some of our former patients, women whom our staff had judged to be capable of caring for themselves, were among those who moved to areas far from the city center once their support from our program was stopped. Distance and Phnom Penh’s now gridlock  traffic congestion have made it  difficult for our staff to stay in touch with those former patients who were no longer formally enrolled in our program and who, in many cases were forced to find housing far outside the city.

However , several of those patients still return regularly to the city for monitoring by the hospitals to which they were assigned for their anti-retroviral therapy and  they have re-appeared on our program radar.  In  a few cases, we have admitted a few patients  back into the Family Support Program after verifying that , without our program's support, they were struggling to survive .

In searh  of a lifeline....

Last year one woman (approximately 70 yers old) who had moved to Koh Kong province to live on her son’s tiny farm there, returned to Phnom Penh. She sought our support because life on on the farm was too tough for a 70 + year old with a fragile medical condition and the travel to Phnom Penh for bi-monthly medical checkups was more than she could handle.

In need of a lifeline....

Similarly, this month a woman who had been in our Family Support Program for many years but who had been transitioned out of the program about five years ago by our former director, sought our support again after a chance encounter with our field staff at the hospital in Phnom Penh where she gets a checkup and receives her ARV therapy every three months.   Many years ago she lost her teenage daughter to the sex industry which left her with only her son. That boy is now nineteen years old but is severely mentally impaired and he is incapable of caring for himself.

Mark met with her and her son during his February visit and decided to restart our support for them beginning  March 1. Those two cases and several others where the women or their children suffer from mental impairment or where they are otherwise unlikely to ever achieve self sufficiency are constant reminders of the ongoing need for a program like our FSP which provides for the essential living needs of some of the most destitute AIDS patients in and around Phnom Penh.  

The support of you, our generous donors, has long provided the fragile families in our program with urgentl needed humanitarian assistance and we are deeply grateful to you all for your past and continued support. 

Barbara & Mark Rosaso 

Mrs. Y and son
Mrs. Y and son


Jan 10, 2019

Update on our current students

Every January we report on our current students: 

Ms. R, about whom we had written before finished her degree and was able to secure a  $900 project grant from USAID and she  has now left our program. Although she still has dreams of graduate school, hopefully her grant project will be able to propel her forward in her chosen field of food science.

Vichet, who last year finally passed his high school qualification exam, continues to work full time  loading trucks , while studying English in night  classes at Panasastra University in Phnom Penh to gain the necessary  proficiency to enter university full time. His sites are set tentatively  for fall 2019.

Ms. P, age 23, continues her part time  studies in English  while working full  time as the bookkeeper at our  Champey  Academy . Opportunities for full time studies are slim as she does not have any  family that can   help her financially, making it difficult if not impossible for her to consider the idea of a full time course load.  

Ms.  S, age 20 studies English part time, while working full time at Champey Academy , hoping to gain the needed proficiency to be able to enter university to study to become a professional tour guide. 

These remaining  young people  continue to try to push ahead and achieve their dreams.   We are hesitant to take on any new students  due to the long standing challenge  of securing stable funding to support them in their efforts.  Despite this, we can look at the students that we have helped and and the ones we continue to help, knowing that this program, through your support, has made a remarkable difference in the lives of these young people.

We are deeply grateful to you for your generous support.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco 

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