Senhoa Foundation

Supporting vulnerable persons and survivors of human trafficking by providing income-generating opportunities, social reintegration, and programs for self-empowerment. We believe in: - Income generation so that vulnerable women can gain economic independence. - Educational and social programs for intellectual empowerment. - Using business sensibilities to achieve humanitarian goals.
Sep 16, 2015

Preparing For a New School Year

Lotus Kids
Lotus Kids' Club Preschool Graduation

It is that time of year again at Lotus Kids Club: 28 of our 52 preschool students graduated! Our primary school students have ended their school year. And we close the school for recess in September. We use September to clean and organize our materials and space, conduct various staff trainings and to take time to relax and recharge. We are prepping for the return of our students and getting ready to welcome new families and participants in our many programs and activities.

Just before their annual summer break, our graduating preschool kids were measured for their primary school uniforms. Their school supplies have been purchased--backpacks, pencils, notebooks, as well as hygiene supplies. We provide these items throughout the year. We also provide for each graduating student a bicycle, helmet and lock. We do this as a graduation gift, but it is also a way to improve school attendance. A big cost for us but it is necessary.

September begins for the teachers with cleaning--deep cleaning. This means that all toys, games and materials get a thorough sanitization. Of course some of this happens throughout the school year but this assures that no item is missed including materials in stock. Deep cleaning also means walls, furniture and all surfaces get a thorough scrub-down. We find it is a good start for doing inventory and culling out what items are really not useful or are ready for the trash bin. Organizing materials is the next step followed by setting up the classrooms and assessing what will be needed for the school year. Again it will invariably be a time to spend money, perhaps replacing broken chairs, a new whiteboard or maybe new books. With 50+ preschool kids and a hundred or so older children using materials to have fun and learn for a year replacing items is inevitable.

After a week or two of the aforementioned purge, the training will begin. This year we have 2 new employees as we promoted a teacher to Assistant Program Manager and hired a nurse, since our beloved previous nurse went on to a new job to gain more experience. It gives us an opportunity to review with all staff our mission, goals and objectives and to see if we are adhering to them. We will also be discussing staff emotions in the workplace. Anger, sadness, frustration and other emotions will of course surface during our work with disadvantaged families. It’s important to know how to handle those emotions.

We will have trainings on child development and other aspects of working with children and youth. The Social Workers will be reviewing information on how to engage with families effectively and find ways to strengthen our record keeping and case management files. We will visit a government-ran preschool/kindergarten and a private preschool/kindergarten.   This should prove interesting and lead to important discussions about the differences and why we do what we do.

We will end with several days of rest and relaxation, some together and some solitary. We will all come back on the first day of school recharged and ready to teach, learn and have fun.

I am looking forward to the new school year with high expectations. We have long-term staff who have over the years gained more knowledge, improved their teaching skills, and have become more creative and innovative. They have overall raised their quality of work. Good luck to them and to the senior staff as well as the new families and participants of the Lotus Kids’ Club.

LKC preschool grads sing to thank their parents
LKC preschool grads sing to thank their parents
Jul 10, 2015

More Than a Job

Sinoun with our artisan students
Sinoun with our artisan students

The Senhoa Jewelry Social Enterprise strives to support its artisans beyond stable employment. With the help of our Education Supervisor, Sinoun, our artisans are also able to focus on personal development and basic education.

Most recently, Sinoun facilitated a goal-setting workshop with the artisans.  She wanted the artisans to set clear goals for both their work and personal lives. “Without goals, you’re only maintaining a life, a life with no direction,” said Sinoun. By setting goals for both their professional development and personal development, the artisans learn to take initiative. “They can come into work and be told what to do and go home. Or, they can come into work and understand that there is room to grow and excel within this social enterprise.” These goals were set with a detailed action plan to achieve within a certain time frame. They also discussed how to determine what goals are realistic within different constraints such as time.

To empower at Senhoa means to provide a supportive environment where an artisan is motivated to learn, make mistakes, and reach their goals – no matter how small or big. “There was one artisan who stood out from the others for me in this activity,” shared Sinoun. “Her goal was to completely learn the newest jewelry collection arriving the following week. For her action steps, she had in place that she would review her own pieces first before the quality check by her supervisor. She wants to take responsibility for her pieces and make sure it’s done well before receiving feedback from the leader. She’s learning to recognize her own mistakes and this way she can learn even faster than having someone else critique her.”

With each step taken to reach their goals, these artisans take more and more ownership of their lives towards whatever direction they desire.

Jun 16, 2015

Special Child, Special Teachers

Our Senior Teacher, Chenda, with the children
Our Senior Teacher, Chenda, with the children

Special Child, Special Teachers

I would like to give praise to the teachers of the Pre-school Program at LKC 1. 

Two of the three teachers have been with us for almost four years and the third teacher was promoted from the cook/cleaner position.  The two longest-serving teachers do not have any university training in child development or early childhood education.  They have been learning from me over the years, as this is my area of expertise.   They have also attended workshops and trainings. 

To see how quickly the teachers have learned and implemented these foreign concepts of working with young children has been amazing.  We operate with a play-based curriculum and encourage child-directed play.  This philosophy of working with children is even questioned in the West, in the USA.  In Cambodia this approach to early childhood education is relatively new.  In some ways it goes against traditional Cambodian cultural practices and thoughts about children.  However, a wealth of research supports this as an effective way to help children in being ready to learn upon entering school. 

Albeit hesitantly, the teachers began using this method of working with the young children and after a few months they began to see positive behaviorial change in the children.  The children were more cooperative, had better self-control, and were gaining confidence in their abilities.   The teachers then began to fully embrace the methods.  They have since sourced their own materials and designed their own activities that support the children’s play and learning.   The teachers encourage whole heartedly the children to direct their own play.  The teachers have been able to discipline the children firmly but with compassion and understanding.  This is done in a way that doesn’t punish or shame the child but teaches so the children learn and practice appropriate behavior. 

All that is stated above is in itself amazing and commendable.  However the teachers deserve even more praise and admiration for their work in the last school year.  At the beginning of the school year we were approached by an NGO that works with children with various disabilities.  They wanted us to consider accepting a child with down-syndrome into our pre-school program.   I was reluctant to do so.  I myself had not much experience working with children with down-syndrome.  The children in the preschool program were living in dire poverty.  Some suffered from abuse or neglect, some lived in single-parent homes, and many lacked adequate food and shelter.   So the teachers already were dealing with many challenges.  I thought perhaps it was unfair and nonproductive to overwhelm them with a special needs child when they have not had experience working with any previously.

After some research regarding how to work with a child with d-s and several discussions weighing the pros and cons, we decided to accept the child into our program.  He is a lovely child who is a bit chronologically older than the other children and had never experienced a pre-school setting.  Of course he did prove to be challenging at first.  It took a lot of hard work and caring by the teachers, but after some time the child along with the other children was able to sit for circle time, sing songs and listen to story books being read.  He eventually participated in the arts and craft activities and made friends with his classmates.  The teachers never complained but would ask for information and guidance when they were challenged by his behavior. 

I get choked up while writing this because clearly this child won the hearts of the teachers.  The teachers stepped up to the challenge, quelled my fears and exceeded my expectations.  The parents were so happy to see their child having fun and making friends.  What a wonderful learning experience for him.  It was as well a great learning experience for the teachers, his classmates and indeed me. 

I can’t thank these special teachers enough.  They are truly amazing.

 
   

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