Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids

by Kasumisou Foundation
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids
Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids

Update on our Family Support Program

Hun Sen, Cambodia's Prime Ministre announces today  announced a  new  14 day lockdown  on Thai Border areas as  newly reported  Covid covid cases cases remain high.

A brief history of Covid in Cambodia:   Cambodia closed to foreign travelers in March 2020 due to COVID. Initially Cambodia was not hit hard and infection numbers were well controlled. A  sudden COVID outbreak in Phnom Penh in February 2021 caused new and  then continuing restrictions, including severely restricted travel in and out of the cities. Checkpoints on the major highways made it nearly impossible for city residents to visit their home villages or for people from the rural provinces to enter the city earlier this year. Now, although some of these drastic restrictions have been modified, schools are currently  closed and entry into Cambodia remains very difficult with enforced 14 day quarantines as  Cambodia  continues with  a series of rolling lockdowns in  direct response to the COVID case count.

A sense of fear had spread through Phnom Penh as schools and businesses including the major markets, were  impacted with rolling lockdowns and markets and streets became and remain  largely  deserted.  Now, Phnom Penh remains on a partial lockdown as  new cases remain high, while Cambodia announces, today, a 14 day  lockdown of 8 provincial areas near the Thai border .  Consequently many businesses like hotels and tourist services remain closed,as are many of the garment factories,  although some  essential services like banks are now open. Some  markets have reopened, but they remain largely without customers.  Although vaccination rates are increasing, Cambodia is using the Chinese vaccine rate which has an estimated effectiveness of about 50%.  so community spread remains a real risk. 

Most of our FSP patients are now vaccinated, but their children are not yet vaccinated because Cambodia is only  just now opening vaccines  to 12 to 17 year old children.

Our FSP home visit coordinator, is herself a former patient from our program. She  conducts weekly home visits with our FSP patients to monitor and report on each family’s situation. A mother of three young children, she is HIV positive and  although vaccinated, she is vulnerable to Covid. . Understandably, she wants to avoid any possible exposure to COVID. This woman has been associated with our program for 15 years , first as a patient and now as member of our staff. We have agreed with her, that in the interest of safety, we have  suspended  home visits until the community spread of COVID in Phnom Penh is  brought under control. She  remains in  close telephone contact with our patients.

We continue to support 16 fragile families. A key part of our “ contract” with our patient families is that they work when, if and as able, to help, at least in a very small way, in their own support. Now, due to COVID closures and their own medical conditions, it is not possible for them to work at their modest , part time jobs at market stalls, etc. and their  opportunitties to  bring in even  a bit of money has largely disappeared. Instead, for safety reasons, they are home bound. Now, more than ever, the fragile families in our program depend upon us, as any sort of part time work presents a potentially serious medical danger.

We are deeply grateful to you,our many supporters for your generosity that helps these fragile families live with dignity. On behalf of the families in our program, please accept our heartfelt thanks. We hope that you will continue  on with in our efforts , particularly during these  very difficult times.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco 

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FSP Member
FSP Member

FSP program update for GlobalGiving –  March 31, 2021

Thanks to an almost immediate decision by  the Cambodian government to close the country to foreign travelers in the first weeks of the Covid pandemic in March and April of 2020, the country was not hit hard and infection numbers were well controlled.  By late in the summer of 2020 students had returned to their classrooms and, with the exception of tourism related industries which were, of course, very hard hit by the closure of the country’s borders, things had more or less returned to normal by the autumn of 2020. 

A  sudden outbreak and spread of infections in Phnom Penh in late February  this year caused the government to again order the closure of schools in early March.  Travel in and out of the city was severely restricted and checkpoints on the major highways made it difficult or impossible for Phnom Penh residents to visit their home villages or for people from the rural provinces to enter the city. A sense of real fear  has spread through the population of the city and businesses including the major markets have  returned to the deserted state which prevailed in the first weeks of the pandemic one year ago.

Our FSP has  a  home visit team coordinator who  is employed by us to conduct weekly home visits with our FSP patients and then report back to us about each woman’s situation. The woman, herself a former patient in our AIDS Patients Family Support Program, has requested that we  allow her  to contact the patients by phone rather  than visiting them in their homes. A mother of three young children, who is herself HIV positive and therefore severely immuno-compromised, understandably,  she wants to be very careful to avoid any possible exposure to the COVID virus.  This woman has been associated with our program, first as a patient and now as member of our staff, for more than fifteen years so.  Of course, we want to keep her safe.  We have agreed to her request to suspend home visits until the community spread of the virus in Phnom Penh is again brought under control.  

We sincerely appreciate the support of you, our generous donors during these difficult times. Now, more than ever, the fragile families in our program depend upon us, as any sort of part time work has become quite challenging, if not impossible.

Mark & Barbara Rosasco 

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Ms. K and her son
Ms. K and her son
Do you remember this devoted mother, Ms. K ?
Last year, we featured Ms. K a member of our  Family Support Program. We mention her again this year because it is important to understand how your support has helped Ms. K and her family over the past year. 
Ms. K is a 40 year old mother with AIDS who has been in our program for many years. For much of her adult life Ms. K has supported herself in a subsistence lifestyle by collecting recyclables on the streets of Phnom Penh. As a single mom, she also supports her two sons:  the eldest , now age 10 and the youngest, a one year old baby. This photo was taken shortly before the birth of her son.
Some history about the baby boy
In early 2019, Ms. K decided, without our input, to leave Phnom Penh to go to live with her sister in northeastern Cambodia. For several months she was not being monitored by our staff. While visiting her relatives during the Cambodian New Year holidays in April 2019, Ms. K was raped by the husband of her aunt and she became pregnant.  The man does not deny his responsibility but he and his wife refused to provide any support for Ms. K or the baby, so she returned to Phnom Penh .
Where our program comes in
Ms K, returned to the care of our program where our field staff person worked to connect her with an organization which provides free infant formula to mothers who work, as she does, in trash recycling. This is a real blessing as the estimated cost of infant formula power is about $ 30 per month, additionally as a mother with AIDS, she could not safely breast feed her infant.
Ms. K continued to work throughout her pregnancy, pulling a cart around the city streets most days collecting recyclable materials such as bottles, cans, cardboard and scrap metal to sell to supplement the support from our program. High blood pressure some times limits the number of day when Ms. K can do such hard work but she works whenever she feels able, about an average of 3 or 4 days per week.
Previously, when Mark had asked Ms.K how she expected to do such work after the baby was born, Ms. K explained that when her older son (now age 10) , was born, she stayed in the hospital for three or four days and then immediately resumed working on the streets, keeping her newborn infant son in the same cart in which she hauls her recyclables. Ms. K explained, that once again, she intended to return to working on the streets very soon after the birth of her new baby.
We continue to provide support and assistance but Ms. K , determined to work to support her children, returned to her work with her baby, very soon after his birth. Ms.K is now , again , working hard , out on the streets where she continues to collect recyclable materials on the streets with her cart, reluctant to give up her tiny income and  independence , not becoming totally dependent on a program like ours which she fears could one day possibly end.  
.
Your generous support really does make a difference. It means that we can continue to support fragile families like Ms. K, her son and her new baby and provide the living and the educational support that is needed to break the cycle of inherited poverty.
We are deeply grateful to you for your wonderful support.
Barbara & Mark 
Family recycle cart
Family recycle cart
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We first started our AIDS Patients Family Support Program (FSP) in 1999. At that time, the streets of central Phnom Penh were populated by large numbers of homeless people, men, women, children begging, with  many of them  afflicted by AIDS . Some of our earliest FSP patients were women whom we found dying on the city’s sidewalks.  In those early days anti retroviral drugs were not available in Cambodia so the diagnosis of HIV infection was justifiably viewed as a death sentence.  

We started our FSP program in direct response to the rampaging HIV infection rates in the population of Phnom Penh and the twin crises of homelessness and hunger which were by-products of the AIDS.

We encountered many, many AIDS afflicted women who had been widowed or abandoned and left destitute. As a result of this, we decided to focus our efforts only on women and mothers and only those women who were suffering from mid to late stages of AIDS.  From time to time, however, we encountered  a woman whose situation was so desperate and  so hopeless, that we would make an exception to those parameters and admit that mother  and her children into our program even though AIDS may not have been a factor in her poverty.   

Early in September one of the young students in our arts school approached the school director to explain that although she would not be coming to class for a while , she wanted to ask him not to remove her name from the student rolls.  She explained that her father, who  had been imprisoned on drug charges, had been released from prison and had threatened to murder her mother.  The mother had quickly decided to take her three young kids – ages 2 years to 10 years – and hide for a while.  Things moved pretty fast  and the family left the one room shack which they had been sharing with another family. Their extremely limited resources forced them to start  living on the street, not very far from the location of our arts school where the oldest child, age 10,  had been an enthusiastic and often joyful dance student. 

Once we had come to understand the family’s situation, we were able to locate them on the streets and   our team moved quickly to rent a small room for them and to enter them into the list of women in our Family Support Program.  Our program now pays the rent ($50 per month) for that very small room and provides the mother with an additional $75 per month for food support to supplement the small monthly income (approximately $100 to $150) which she earns from selling bird seed, snacks and soft drinks to tourists on the riverside in front of the Royal Palace.   We also purchased school kits (school uniforms, book bags, and required school supplies) for the two older  children who are  currently enrolled in primary school.

There is no guaranty that the woman’s husband will not come looking for them and we cannot be sure that they are no longer in danger. However,  our team is ready to swing into action again if it becomes necessary in order to protect this fragile  family and to try to provide a stable living situation for this courageous, hardworking  mother  and her three young children. 

It is important to remember, families like these do not choose abject poverty and its  unpredictable additional misfortunes, but without resources they have no way out when something does occur.  Our goal , since the inception of Kasumisou Foundation, has been to find  ways to help fragile families manage their  current challenges with a longer term goal of enabling the children in those families to break the cycle  of inherited poverty by providing essential  social support to  their families   and  by creating access to educational opportunities for the children.

Out of respect for privacy, there are no photos available to accompany this update. 

As is always the case, we deeply appreciate your kind and generous support of the families in our program. Your support really does make a difference in their lives. 

 

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

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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
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Kasumisou Foundation

Location: Menlo Park, California - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Barbara Rosasco
Secretary/Treasurer
Menlo Park, Ca. United States
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