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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
Rantha A 14  and her grandmother, nearing age 80
Rantha A 14 and her grandmother, nearing age 80

In the early 2000s crowded slums in Phnom Penh were frequently cleared by mysterious neighborhood fires that drove residents off of valuable land in the city center and into outlying areas on to the open rice fields of Anlung Kgang, about an hour’s ride from the city. That resettlement area was reached over a series nearly impassible dirt roads. There were no houses, no electricity, sewer or water lines. Most families built shelters from plastic tarps, bamboo sticks and cardboard scraps they scrounged from surrounding roads and ditches. In the rainy season the area became a sea of mud and wet misery for the residents.

 In 2002, in Anlung Kgang, we met a grandmother, then in her sixties, and her two AIDS orphaned grandchildren, two brothers, about 8 and 10 years of age. Although generously kind hearted, this grandmother was completely illiterate, not able event to write her own name. As AIDS orphans, the brothers qualified for assistance from our AIDS Patients Family Support Program (FSP). Over time, with the help of some generous friends, we helped the family build a modest wooden house on their tiny land plot. The government eventually built a primary school to serve the thousands of families in the settlement. Both brothers excelled in school, despite the fact that grandmother could not be of any help with their studies.

The older boy, Phiroum, became withdrawn as a teen, dropped out of high school and moved to the city to stay with friends and train as auto mechanic.

The younger boy, Vichet, who remained devoted to his ailing grandmother, stayed at home to help and continued to study hard in school. In his spare time he studied English to prepare himself to pursue his dream of becoming a tour guide in Phnom Penh.

 In 2010 Vichet’s aunt, also died of AIDS, leaving an orphaned six year old daughter. This little girl, Rantha, Vichet’s cousin, came to live with Vichet and his grandmother. Both children studied hard studied hard while also taking care of their grandmother who suffers from many health problems.

 In 2015, at the age of 21, Vichet finally completed grade 12 and prepared to take the very difficult national examination. If he passed, he would earn a high school graduation diploma. Despite his years of hard study, the poor quality of his education in a rural and poor  public school did not prepare him adequately for the exam.

 Unlike middle class children who often  take a series of rather expensive “extra classes” in order to prepare for the national exam, children of the poor or in rural areas inevitably fail and our Vichet failed his exam in 2015 and he would need to wait one year to try again. Students who do not pass the high school exam are allowed to wait a year and retake it but, without the benefit of a rigorous tutoring program, chances of success only diminish with time.

Having completed grade 12 and but failing to receive a diploma, Vichet now works in a warehouse loading trucks, working six days per week for $100 per month. Sadly, due to lack of study and practice, his once fine English language skills have declined markedly. He would like to prepare himself to retake the high school graduation exam next July but as the main support for his family, he is, very understandably, unwilling to give up his full time job and Vichet  is hoping to somehow tutor himself to success.

 Unless Vichet enrolls full time in high school (again) and retakes grade 12 along with a battery of outside “extra classes,” his chance of success is dim at best. Therefore, we are considering options for vocational training while also looking to re-enroll him in an English language program with the hope that he might one day gain the proficiency required to pursue his long ago dream of working as a tour guide. All of these options, of course, require funds: funds not only to replace his income for the family, but also funds for tutoring or vocational school. Indeed, changing Vichet's life’s current trajectory , from a low paid manual laborer to a more middle class life as a tour guide, will depend on this.

 Meanwhile, the Rantha is now fourteen years old and in grade eight and studying hard. Although she ranks  #1 her English language program in a class of thirty students, in her Khmer language and other core program classes, Rantha ranks in about the 30th percentile.  

 We are very proud of both of these orphaned young people for their determined efforts and their kind treatment of their ailing grandmother.

We are the family for our families!

A central theme of our Program, has been a long term approach to help the children in our program, cruelly impacted by extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS, to somehow break out of the cycle of inherited poverty and move into the middle class. As you can see with the history of this fragile family, sometimes the “ progress” in this goal is two steps forward and one step back and it is a very long and uncertain road to success.

We are very proud of both of these young people. In a society where young people are often focused only on their own gratification , this young man, Vichet, has been steadfast in his kindness and loyalty, taking care of his ailing grandmother and his young cousin, Rantha, while trying to continue to move himself forward despite formidable obstacles and odds against him. He is truly a kind and gentle soul.

Vichet is a member of our “ family” , so our goal is to try to help Vichet build a life of hope and progress, and help him move forward along that very long and difficult road out of extreme poverty.

Our donor support over the many years has empowered us to help many other fragile families, all of whom, without our “family” support,  would fall backward into a life of hopelessness. Instead, we try to see how we can try to help, by coming up with a different strategy, never giving up, for after all, we are the family for our families.

 We deeply appreciate the continued support of our generous donors for the families in our care. None of this would be possible without you.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

Vichet and Rantha
Vichet and Rantha
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Part of the team....
Part of the team....

In the early days of our program in the early 2000s, many of our efforts were focused upon urgent, last resort, compassionate care for the women and mothers in our program. As the program evolved, more of our program participants were moms with children. Thankfully, as antiretroviral medications became readily available and affordable, our program evolved still further, focused upon assisting moms with AIDS. AIDS had evolved from an 18 month to 2 year death sentence from diagnosis, to a serious chronic illness that in many cases was “ manageable”.

Despite the evolution of our program participants, our core values for the program remained the same

  • keep fragile families together
  • protect the family from homelessness
  • protect the children from trafficking
  • provide basic housing, food and community support
  • and keep children in school.

Our long term goal was to break the cycle of inherited poverty by giving the kids in our patient families a real chance at improved economic prospects through education. The journey to success via this last goal has been tortuously slow, in some cases, spanning more than a decade of slow, steady support. In short, we function as the “ family” for our patient families. But, boy, can we show results from our efforts !

The story of S: A rescued life or a “masterpiece” in progress?

In 2001, when S. and her sister first joined our AIDS Patients Family Support Program, S was just 4 years old and her sister had just passed her second birthday. Their mother was dying from AIDS and S., herself, was HIV positive, having contracted the virus at birth. These three fragile souls, themselves, had been homeless for a while but at the time we met them, they were sharing a single room with the mom’s childhood friend, who, though herself quite poor, had taken them into her tiny home because they simply had no where else to turn. The situation was dire: a dying mom with AIDS and two toddlers, age 2 and 4.

S’s family became one of our patient families. Less than 2 years after joining our program, her mom died in a hospice outside of Phnom Penh, leaving S, age 6 and her sister, age 4, in the care of the lifelong friend with whom they had been living.

Today, years after entering our program, we continue to support this fragile family. The girls live in that same room with their mother’s friend, whom over the years, they came to love and know as their “ new” mom. The friend discovered some years ago that she, too, is HIV positive and, despite failing eyesight, she somehow manages to earn a little income by sewing stuffed toys and other simple craft items for which she get’s paid on a piecework by a local NGO in Phnom Penh.

Our Program’s support and financial assistance have empowered these tiny orphaned girls to grow and blossom into confident, charming and accomplished young ladies. Among other skills, both girls have become confident English speakers with the help of many years of outside English language instruction sponsored and paid for by our Family Support Program. Both girls are still in school – S. is now in grade 12 and her sister is in grade 10 at a public high school near their home in central Phnom Penh. Both of the girls work and study half days at our Champey Academy of Arts. Despite her love of dance, S. was moved to the drawing and painting class after suffering several fainting spells on the dance stage. Her younger sister continues to study dance and she has developed into a fine dancer and has many times been included in our Champey ‘traveling team’ which performs at events and competitions outside of Champey.

In addition to studying drawing, S. also works as a member of our Champey “welcome team” – greeting tourists who visit our school, explaining our program of arts instruction to them and teaching them something about Cambodian traditional arts. Both girls receive a modest salary for their work at Champey and that money helps to supplement the earnings of their ‘mother’ and the monthly support payments which the family receives from our FSP.

 What the future holds...

As a 12th grade student, S. is naturally thinking a lot about what she will do next year after she has completed high school but first she needs to pass the rigorous national examination required of all students before they can receive their high school diplomas. After that, S. thinks she might like to work in tourism, perhaps as a guide, but, depending on our available resources, both the management of Champey and our FSP field staff hope to see this very talented and confident young woman enrolled in university next year.

We are so proud of both girls, who despite formidable obstacles, continue to lead lives of quiet dignity and excellence, undaunted by the formidable challenges that have been ever present in their lives.

Because of you...

Your long term and steady support has allowed us to “ rescue” and then support these young girls. Their own fine characters and hard work combine to allow us to claim at least a little bit of credit for their remarkable accomplishments as they continue their paths  forward toward a better future

We are deeply grateful to you all for your support, for surely it has been a group effort , now spanning 15 years and I know that we all agree, the results have been worth the time and effort.

The average cost of basic support for one of our program families is about $ 140 per month plus additional costs of education, tutoring, etc. as appropriate.

Sadly, we cannot change the world. But, as you can see, we could change the world for these two young girls.

With our heartfelt thanks,

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

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The name of our project on GlobalGiving is titled "Help Destitute Moms with AIDS care for their kids". Speaking as a mom,myseslf,  there are  few things that are more important than trying to help our kids get the education that will prepare them for a better world. For the moms in our program, this effort is particularly important as education can help their children break the cycle of inherited poverty.

The new school year will soon start in Cambodia. In preparation for each new year students are expected to turn up for the new school year prepared and adequately equipped.

In Cambodia, public school students are required to have a uniform, book bag and certain supplies. This seemingly easy goal for a middle class family is quite different for families similar to ours, whose tight budget would typically be  used almost entirely for food and shelter, with little left over for education.

Because of this, a key part of our program to help the disadvantaged  moms in our program, already impacted by AIDS,   is to be certain that all of the students that are in our AIDS Patient Family Support Program, have the proper gear to begin school and real access to education. Costs  for uniforms and supplies range from $25 to $35 per student, depending upon the grade level.

Typically, this means that a student will have

  • two uniforms, comprised of skirt or trousers and shirts
  • a book bag
  • pencils, notebooks and any other supplies required
  • footwear

In Cambodia, the average education level  achieved is just 6th grade, and we are so proud that the children our program are staying in school long past that.

Beyond the school “ kit” we provide, we also pay the extra weekly “ teacher fees”, a need that reflects the  reality of  underpaid public school teachers. If students can’t pay these fees, they are often ignored, ridiculed or even given failing grades by the teacher, so these fees are essential. Depending upon grade level, fees can be a much as $ 30 per month per student, or $ 300 per year, putting education costs for public education to about $ 325 per student per year.

Early in our efforts to help our students, we saw that some of our kids failed a grade and needed to repeat that grade. Some students, due to stresses in the family and other factors, had failed grades multiple times and were much older than other students just entering that grade. The shame of failure often caused students, even elementary students, to drop out of school. In recognition of this, we will also provide additional tutoring to try to keep children up to grade level and in school and early intervention is vitally important to this effort.

The chart below gives you an idea of the grading system for Cambodian students and as you can see, a failing grade really means that the student would have had a grade of under 50.

Our students have tried and thrived in school and we are proud to count  our many middle school and high school graduates because of our focus on education in this program. One important outcome of this long term focus on education is that our graduates are getting better jobs after they leave school and are able to help support their families. Step by step, our efforts to educate the children in our AIDS Patient Family Support Program have enabled many of these students to break the cycle of inherited poverty and move gradually forward into Cambodia’s emerging middle class.

Our deepest thanks to all of our generous donors who have made this transformation possible.

Mark is in Cambodia this week and will be returning to the US  on Sept 13  with an update, so please watch for our next post and program update.

Barbara & Mark

 

Grading standards

Percentage      Grade      Standard

 85-100              A            Excellent

 79-84                B            Very Good

70-78                 C            Good

65-69                 D            Fairly poor

50-64                 E            Fair

< 50                   F            Fail

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Nhieng and her family
Nhieng and her family

GlobalGiving Annual Bonus Match Day is June 15 !

  • Bonus Match Day  ( 9:00-23:59  EDTon June 15, 2016 
  • There are $110,000 in matching funds available.
  • Max donation  of $1,000 per donor per organization ( not per project!)

 

The “big story" and the price of garlic....

Project updates are sometimes hard to write because much of the work that we do is quiet and not very exciting to read about. A large part of what  we do is to function as “ family” for our families, helping them to help themselves. While we always like to tell a story that has a shows a concrete example of the benefits  of our efforts,  such as getting and keeping children in school, sometimes the “big story” is simply about being there to offer the  support that allows a family to function instead of breaking apart.

Introducing Nhieng

Nhieng’s family has been a part of our program for a number of years. Nhieng has AIDS. She is  about 40 years old and  she works hard to  support to her three children. We met Nhieng some years ago  in the mid  2000s  before the ready availability of antiviral AIDS medications and we expected that she, like so many mothers in our program, would survive just a year or two. Like other families in her situation, life changed radically when  new antiretroviral AIDS medicines became available  and her stable living situation supported by our program, qualified her to access these life prolonging drugs and  medical treatment.  Now, several years later, she is still with us.  Her health, despite AIDS, remains good  enough to allow her to try to  support her family which consists of a son from a first marriage and two other young children from a subsequent relationship. The son is now turning 18. He completed grade 8, but dropped out of school in grade nine. Suffering from severe depression, he stays at home.   Her other children are a daughter  age 6 and a son age 3. To the best of our knowledge, the children are not HIV positive.

Despite her HIV status and difficult  life,  Nhieng is not a quitter. She works hard to try to support her family by  peeling  garlic in a produce market near to her home.  She receives Cambodian  Riel 3,000 (about $0.75) per kilo ( 2.2 pounds) .  Nhieng  works all day, 7 days per week, doing this work.  She can complete up to about 3 kg per day earning about  $2.25 per day or about $68 per month , less if she is unwell and unable to work. Obviously, this is not enough to support a family of four but Nhieng continues to work hard to help her family and the support from our program of about $ 140 per month makes life bearable by providing shelter, additional money for  food  , access to  social support and continuing access to medical care. Beyond this, her younger children are safe from trafficking and they will  have an opportunity to  access the education so needed by children  to break free of this cycle of poverty.

Our program to help moms with HIV/AIDS to support their children is not a headline making, quick fix program, but a program that recognizes that it is too late for these moms to build a successful life for themselves. Instead , we focus on providing humanitarian support to keep these fragile families together, keep children safe and give us time to help the children in the families to build a brighter future through education.

Your support helps us to help our families. We continue to support a family for an average of about $ 140 per month. We are deeply grateful to you all for your generosity  and we encourage you to consider making a donation during the upcoming GlobalGiving Annual Bonus Match Day on June 15 where your donation can receive a bonus match of 50% on a donation of up to $1000 per organization.

Thank you again for your generous support of our families.

 

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

Links:

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Since 1999, Kasumisou Foundation has provided care and support to fragile families and children impacted by extreme poverty and  HIV/ AIDS  in and around Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. In 2000 we  began  an attempt to create a formalized effort to provide homeless , destitute women  and mothers afflicted by mid-to-late stages of AIDS with basic housing, monthly food support and provide assistance  for the school expenses for school age dependent children.

Now, in 2016,  we continue to focus on providing the destitute women, mothers  and children in our program with modest housing, school expenses, basic medicines, transportation to and from medical appointments, counseling encouragement and food support.   We  have been supporting our families on just $140 per month on average.

The title of this project update is “ The Price of Rice” and we   would like to discuss  its impact on our program.

These days, in the US  we hear a lot about droughts in various parts of the US and the anticipation of El Nino rains to break the prolonged drought cycle . In the developed world, this drought  has been  a serious matter, with areas such as California imposing severe water rationing. For others, in the developing world  , such as SE Asia and parts of South America, the drought  situation may likely soon develop into a food emergency.

Impact of a “ super drought”

The flipside of the El Nino rains that recently came to the Western US has been  the impact of a "super"  La Nina in the southern hemisphere . It is causing a “super drought” in South East Asia,  and severe drought  conditions in Cambodia, such as have   not been  seen in nearly 10 years.  More importantly, the coming  rainy season is projected to have such a lack of rain as to be unable to irrigate the next rice just as global rice stocks stand a ultra low levels not seen in a decade.  According to a May 9,2016  article in Barron's "drought, floods ,and historically low global inventories have rice market experts worried" that the price of rice could double if rice harvests ( rains)  fail. World rice prices have already started to rise already beginning local impact.

Imagine how your own finances would be impacted if your food costs doubled over the course of a few weeks or months. Such stress is unthinkable for the families in our program and consequently, we anticipate that  our current funding costs  to support our families may rise significantly.

A failure of the rice crop creates dire conditions for the general population, including severe hunger, and even starvation  for families and children who,  already living on the edge of survival, will be unable to afford to buy nt adequate food .

Additionally,  a hunger driven  forced migration , could  bring thousands of desperate peasant farmers to the cities in search of work.  There is a likelihood that may there more children trafficked and other impacts  as  desperate families experience   the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/AIDS)  caused by  prostitution and trafficking  and creating an even greater need for the services of programs like ours and forcing our operating costs ever higher.   It is a dreadful cycle that we gone through before and one which takes families and communities year for recovery.

On average and at any given time, our program now serves approximately 35 to 40 AIDS afflicted women and their approximately 70 dependent children. We also continue to serve some AIDS orphans who are the children of women who died while in the care of our Family Support Program (FSP).  All of this is possibly only because of the kind  generosity of our donors.

Import Notice:  Make your donation even more effective on the  June 15 Bonus Match Day

June 15 is  a GlobalGiving Match Day, where your contribution can receive a match of 50%.  Your continued generosity can help us to continue to serve the fragile families in our programs  during the challenging months ahead.

Thank you,

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

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Organization Information

Kasumisou Foundation

Location: Menlo Park, California - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Barbara Rosasco
Secretary/Treasurer
Menlo Park, Ca. United States
$127,037 raised of $150,000 goal
 
1,123 donations
$22,963 to go
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