Largely due to the stabilization of the AIDS crisis in Cambodia in recent years, we have, for the past several years, operated this program in what could be described as a “maintenance” mode, keeping our list of patients stable and not accepting any new women in the program. However, this year we felt compelled to add two new women to the program. Neither woman is suffering from AIDS but both are mothers of students in our Champey Academy of Arts school of traditional arts for young people and both families are extremely poor which can make the children vulnerable.
In the first years of our program – 1998 and 1999 – and for several years after that, the AIDS crisis in Cambodia was so uncontrolled and the numbers of homeless, sick and dying AIDS afflicted women were so great ,that we felt it was necessary that we concentrate all of our resources only on women who met those two primary criteria – homeless and destitute and suffering from medium to late stages of AIDS. Beginning from about 2002, with the introduction and growing availability of anti-retroviral drug therapy for AIDS patients in Cambodia, AIDS very slowly and gradually became less of a ‘death sentence’ and more like an extremely serious but often manageable health issue for many of our women. After operating the program with an average of about 75 women and about 125 dependent children for more than a decade, in around 2011 and 2012 we started culling the list of patients, as we identified some of our women whose health had recovered sufficiently for them to work to support themselves. By 2013 we had reduced the number of women in the program to about 35 but among those were many whom we felt certain could not survive either physically or financially on their own without at least some support from our program.
Since we have a program and a mechanism for supporting poor and homeless women and their kids and because many of the students at our Champey Academy of Arts come from extremely poor families, we have decided to consider some of the mothers of those Champey Academy students for inclusion in our FSP regardless of whether they suffer from AIDS.
The two mothers mentioned above will be the first of what we expect might be several homeless and impoverished mothers of Champey Academy students whom we will add to the support roles of our AIDS Patients Family Support Program (FSP) in the near future.
With the addition of those first two mothers of Champey Academy students, the roles of our FSP now include the following.
- Adult women including six who are between the ages of 75 and 85 years and one who, more than ten years ago, was disabled by a massive stroke which has left one side of body paralyzed: 20 women.
- Young school aged children: 11 children.
- Severely disabled adult children of our women: 2 young adult males. One is the adult son and the other is the adult grandson of women in our program and both of them are developmentally disabled and incapable of living independently.
One of the challenges in managing and reporting on a program like this is that there are few “big” markers that openly affirm success. Instead, the “ good news” is that the program runs as hoped for, that the needs of these fragile individuals are met and that even a casual observer can see that the humanitarian value, although small in scale, is significant, indeed, literally life changing, to each of our individual program participants. A key goal of our efforts is to enable these fragile families to life in dignity.
Without exception, our efforts, made possible by you, our kind donors , the lives of the members of our program are made dramatically better than if these folks were left to fend for themselves and try to survive on their own . To this day, whenever possible, we place great value on even the smallest bit of self sufficiency as we strongly encourage our participants to engage in whatever small scale, dignified employment that is available.
We are deeply grateful to you for your support.
Barbara & Mark Rosasco