Help Destitute Moms with AIDS Care for Their Kids

by Kasumisou Foundation

                                                                  Personal Stories from the FSP

As we look forward to the New Yeaer, it is good to look back at how we have spent our time and whether we have achieved our goals.  One of our goals this past year has been to keep you, our supporters, better informed about the impact that your support makes. 

Each of our FSP patient families faces unique challenges, which for most us, are not survivable.  But somehow, these fragile families manage to continue one, one step at a time.  Our FSP provides food, housing and social support. We are the family to these families, coping withimmediate challenges, yet working toward the longer term solutions. Sometimes the changes which we strive so hard to make, are so slow in coming that we can recognize it only in hindsight. For example, by stressing education as a core value over the years, we now have 19 FSP kids in high school. Sometimes, sadly, despite our efforts, we fail as you will read below about Daria.

We hope that sharing these personal stories will you to fully understand the impact of your support and the challenges of our task. The names have been changed for reasons of privacy.

Our deepest thanks to you all for your generous support! Your support has changed and saved many lives.

Our best wishes to you all for 2013.

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

 

Personal Stories from the FSP   2012

Randy ( male, age 20): Randy's mother, an FSP patient, died from AIDS about 10 years ago .  Randy suffers from serious mental retardation  and  he has never recovered from losing his mother.  He  now spends his days helping his 80+ year old grandmother sell vegetables in a market stall  in Phnom Penh.  His 17 year old sister attends school with FSP support.  Our FSP continues to help this family with food and pay rent and the  education expenses of the girl. Our goal is that the girl  can acquire enough education or job skills to support and care for her older brother and her aged grandmother in the future. It has been a long slow process, but without FSP support these children would have almost certainly  been trafficked. Instead, we are on the edge of this fragile family achieving financial independence within the next few years.

Mike  lost his brother to  AIDS about ten years ago.  At that time our FSP supported  Mike, his brother ( the breadwinner) ,  their aged mother and Mike’s four children, in total,  7 people.  Mike’s wife had abandoned the children  to live with another man in their neighborhood.  Although  Mike does not have AIDS, he is mentally unstable and suffers from severe alcoholism and is often unable to care for the family. The FSP has carefully monitored  the condition of Mike’s children over the years and  they are all fine students.  Despite the family’s poverty, Mike’s frequent mental breakdowns, his constant fight with alcoholism and the emotional scars left by  their mother’s abandonment, Mike’s children have managed to survive  and stay together. This fragile family and its  children have been kept together because of the support of the FSP, preventing the children from a tragic life of abuse and trafficking. Instead, they are good students, in a family life and a hope for a brighter future.  

Daria  is a 17 year old girl.  About ten years ago,  Daria lived on a sidewalk in Central Phnom Penh along with her brother, their AIDS afflicted mother and their aged grandmother.  We took the family into the FSP.  Daria’s  mother died from AIDS several years ago and since then they have relied on their grandmother and the support of  our FSP.  Daria’s brother is now about 20 years old and he is in grade 6 at school.  Despite his very limited mental ability, the boy loves school and  tries  his best. He has rejected suggestions to change to  a job training course.  Unfortunately, Daria is a sweet girl but  an indifferent student and  sometimes quite careless. She doesn’t have the  determination of her older brother.  Recently  Daria’s carelessness in missing an arranged   job opportunity  to provide badly needed income for the family,  earned her some criticism from her brother and grandmother as well as from our program staff.  To our greaty distress,  Daria has now run away from home to escape any further criticism.  She is now somewhere on the streets of Phnom Penh  and  our team is searching for her. We hope that  our team or her family will find her or she will decide to come home. Phnom Penh is a dangerous place for an innocent teen and we fear for her safety . We do not want Daria to meet  the tragic fate  of trafficking and enslavement which awaits so many teen age runaways and orphans on the streets of Cambodia’s capital.

Your support DOES make a difference!

We are often asked how we know can tell if our programs really make a difference. Sometimes it seems that the changes are so slow as to be almost invisible.

Bit by bit, week by week, child by child, we  help  fragile families in our AIDS Patient Family Support Program stay together, insure that  they  have enough to eat, have access to medical care, and that  the children are safe to survive and thrive. And, we keep the kids in school. The progress is agonizingly slow, but the wait is worth it!   The combined  success of these efforts goes far beyond simple survival.   

This year, 2012 , we saw 5 students  in our Aids Patient Family Support Program graduate from High School and enter college .We were fortunate to find sponsors for that  first year's tuition.  In 2013 we have 6 more students on track to graduate from High School. We have  another 13 now in grades 9 through 11.  This is an amazing result from a group of  just   90 school age in the FSP program. We have another 4 students in a rural project in Prey Veng Province who have also just graduated from High School.

Let's put it in context: Many of the moms in our FSP program  are illiterate and they do not understand the importance of education. This is where we come in.  We get it! We know that just 27% of kids in Cambodia graduate from high school and  only 40% of students finish middle school,  so getting through grade 12 is a big accomplishment ! We have emphasized education from the beginning and now it is really beginning to show results.  Yes! We are so proud of our kids! From " throw away, homeless slum  kid" to high school graduate! Now onward to college student!

The academic success of our FSP students has all been made possible by the generous contributions  of you, our supporters.

Now, we face  a  new challenge ahead:  funding college .  Truthfully, we never planned for it. It was not on our horizon. Yes, we thought that perhaps one or two kids might make it, but 15??

We will need to find 2013  funding for our 5  current college students , plus college funding for 6 more new  high school graduates in 2013 . We also have 4 students from our Rural Assistance  program ( wish serves the rural poor)  who are also dreaming of attending college. From modest rural families, two new High School graduates  are  working  construction for $ 3.00 a day to support themselves. College dreams will be lost unless we can raise funding for these and our other high school graduates.

Though costs are low - about $ 500-$800  per year for tuition and books per student and room and board for some,  it adds up   to a total of 15 college students in all in 2013!

We have just posted a new  project # 12004 , Build Dreams! Send Cambodian Students to College which will become an ongoing program to help our high school graduates and  students realize their dreams and go on to college.

What a journey: from homeless and  poor in an FSP family to college student. Together, we can accomplish such  amazing things and this is a wonderful example!

Thank you  for making this possible for our kids! They are your kids too. Your support has gotten them this far. Let's take them the rest of the way!

Barbara & Mark Rosasco

PS. Please check with your company to see if they will match any or part of your 2012 donations.

Links:

Last week  we received  this email from an 8th grade student  attending an international school in Asia

"I am  writing a report on responses to the challenges of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. I would like to ask one question, Of all the HIV/AIDS project  how do you determine if your projects are successful and do you think that you have achieved what you set out to achieve?"

The text below is taken from our reply the student:


1) When we first started our AIDS Patients Family Support Program in 2000,

  • there was very little care available for poor and homeless AIDS patients in Phnom Penh
  • the life saving antiretroviral medicines which were in use in developed nations were not  available in Cambodia. 
  • many of the patients who entered our program  died within weeks or months of joining us.
  •  our primary goal was to help these women to live as comfortably as possible  and  
  • to die with some dignity inside of their own homes and  not lying on a sidewalk somewhere in Phnom Penh. 


I feel confident in saying that we fully met that goal as we were able to provide adequate food support and modest housing for all of our women - most of whom had been homeless when they first entered our program.  


2) After housing and food support, our "original" next most important goal for the program was

  • to enroll the children of our AIDS afflicted women (some of those children were also suffering from AIDS) in school and
  • require that they attend school rather than begging on the streets. 


I can definitely confirm that we have met that goal as nearly all of the children in our program did enroll in school and most of them surpassed the grade level (approximately grade 6 or 7) at which poor children in Phnom Penh typically drop out of school. 


Last year, for the first time, some of our students completed grade 12 and passed the rigorous examination required to receive a high school graduation certificate in Cambodia.  This is a remarkable achievement for children who had formerly been homeless and destitute.  Three of our FSP  students  are currently attending universities in Phnom Penh with sponsorship provided by our program. 

This is a remarkable achievement for Cambodian children from such disadvantaged backgrounds.


3) About ten years ago the  free antiretroviral medicines,provided by the U.N.'s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria dramatically  came to Camboia and increased the life expectancies of our patients.

 Now, instead of fighting to keep mom's  alive, our  energy is to  help  their children  succeed in school.  This is a constant challenge because many of our children, having spent part of their young lives homeless and living on the streets,  lack an understanding of the role which education can play in their lives.  Their mothers - with some exceptions - are largely uneducated women, many of whom cannot even write their own names.Instilling in our children an appreciation for the importance of education is a constant challenge. 

 Despite our best efforts, we do not and cannot succeed with every child.  However, most of our children are attending school and a many of them have excelled, often reaching a class ranking in the top five students in classes which typically include 40 to 50 students.  

 Here again, the results speak for themselves and I am confident to say that most of our kids have achieved education milestones which would have been unthinkable without the intervention of our program.


.... the work which we do brings many frustrations and disappointments but we never doubt the overall success of our efforts and the impact which those efforts continue to have toward improving the lives and future prospects of some of Cambodia's poorest and most disenfranchised people suffering from AIDS.


If you have any other questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact us.


Mark Rosasco
President, Kasumisou Foundation
Menlo Park, Ca., U.S.A. 

Back to School Days  at the FSP

September 2012

Mark is on his way  to Cambodia tomorrow.  It is  “Back to School” time  for the kids in the FSP.  This Fall, 88 students from our FSP  will return  to school at the end of September . We have  a record number of  students  in High School this year: 19 students in grades 9 ~ 12.  This is wonderful!  It is rare even for middle class Cambodian students to complete high school, yet we have 5 students from FSP's  fragile families  who are Seniors  this year, on track to graduate in 2013. 

I would like to introduce you to one of our High School students, Reaksmey ( pronounced  res may ) .  Reaksmey is 21 and she is on track to graduate in 2013. You might  want to ask me  what is so great about  a 21 year old High School Senior???   Please, let me tell you Reaksmey’s story.

About Reaksmey- an 8 year journey to success in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

About 8 years ago, when  Reaksmey was 13 , she, along with  sister Melia age 5, brothers age 15  and 11 and their mother  joined our  FSP program.   A single mother,  Pich Srey Mom , had AIDS and had no money to  feed her  4 kids.

The situation was dire.  They lived in a little 2 room shack  made of scrap wood which was shared by an uncle who was dying of AIDS.  We gave Mother money  for food and we paid school fees. After  Uncle died, Mother  became very sick, so Mother and  her 4 kids  moved in with an Aunt’s family.   About  4 years ago, Mother   had a severe  stroke, leaving  her  paralyzed on one side.  Aunt’s family could not care for her, so Mother  went to  live at  the Home of Peace  AIDS Hospice. 

Although a good student, Reaksmey had to  drop out of High School  to care for  young sister Melia.    The 4 children  continued to live at Aunt’s home. We paid for food  for the kids and  for Melia’s school costs.   Elder brother soon  left -  he got a job working on a farm.  Shortly  after this, Aunt’s husband told   the girls to  move out. Middle brother could   stay  if he earned his room and board  in  Uncle’s  tiny  metal working shop.

Kasumisou Foundation Family Support Progam ( FSP)   stepped in.  We rent  a small  room for the two girls. The two girls’ entire possessions fill just a single laundry size basket.    We  pay for food , utilities and  school fees.  We provide active supervision from our Home Care Team.  Reaksmey returned  to   high school!  She  is an honors student, consistently in the top 5 students in her class.  She is  also studying English.  Reaksmey  will graduate from High School  in 2013!   Younger sister, Melia is now 13  and also in school .

Reaksmey  is grateful for all that she has.    She  “gives back” by  working  2 to 3 half days per week as a volunteer for Kasumisou Foundation  at the  Phnom Penh Municipal  Orphanage in the Malnutrition, Therapy and Play room where the most medically fragile children live.   She holds, comforts, feeds and plays with the children, some  of whom are bed bound and severely handicapped.

Now, age 21, Reaksmey’s  dream is to attend college.

It’s been quite a journey for Reaksmey:  from a wooden shack to honors student with a dream of college in just 8 years!

The Family Support Program’s long term approach works.

Family Support Program  efforts go far beyond providing simple food and shelter. The FSP’s goal is to lift these kids out of poverty through education and social guidance, one life at a time. Your support, your commitment, is what makes this possible.   With your help, we can help Reaksmey  and others like her , to achieve their  dreams. 

Our annual budget for the FSP which serves 75 families and 125 dependent children  is about $ 110,000 this  year and it is challenging to raise these funds year upon year.  We are grateful for donations of all sizes. It all makes a difference.

Thank you for your continued commitment. Your  generous support is what  makes all of this possible.

With gratitude,

Barbara and Mark Rosasco

PS  Please help us to spread our story by asking your friends to link this site or our kasumisou.org  website on their social networking sites.

 

Seisen student comforts infant at City Orphanage
Seisen student comforts infant at City Orphanage

Behind the scenes at Kasumisou Foundation : How a school service  idea gave  birth to a project

Summer 2011 saw our first ever joint service effort.   Our service  team   partners were  17  Junior and Senior students from Seisen International School in Tokyo, Japan.   We first reported on this in our September 2011 update. 

Seisen International School

In June 2011,  Mark, organized and facilitated  a team of 17 students and 2 Seisen teachers for a  10 day volunteer service program   at the Phnom Penh Municipal Orphanage and  the Home of Peace   AIDS  in Phnom Penh. The  Seisen Service  Team,  paid their own way. Their service work was to provide companionship and individual attention to permanently warded children, with mornings spent at the Home of Peace AIDS hospice ( HOP)    and afternoons at the Municipal Orphanage ( MO)

On the first day,   several  Seisen  students bravely held  back  tears as they came to understand the  medical reality of the  fragile  children with whom they would be working.   Many of the  children  at the MO  are extremely limited in their mental and physical abilities.  All of the children  suffer from some type of serious affliction or disability.  Some of the children are permanently confined to bed. Due  to inadequate funding,   these kids   often receive little attention beyond the  basic custodial care of a diaper change and food. Overworked and understaffed, Staff work burdens do not  include  time for cuddling and holding. The Seisen Service Team provided  a rare treat for these kids  to have the  individual attention of holding, rocking,  or singing that our own children so  easily  take for granted.   Other children at the Home of Peace  hospice and the more mobile children at the Orphanage   greatly enjoyed a chance for personalized  attention, small crafts activities  and games. 

Background

In May 2011,  the European NGO   that had provided much of the funding support for  Municipal Orphanage  said that they must end their  support  after 10 years to  their own funding challenges,   leaving dire gaps in funding for essential services for the children at the Orphanage.

Although Kasumisou Foundation continues have its own serious funding challenges, operating its programs  on month to month budgets. However,  the  dire funding needs for the most fragile children at  Orphanage, caused Kasumisou Foundation to take on the task of providing supplemental support to the Orphanage. We could already see from the success of our Seisen Service Team that we could make a meaningful difference.  We decided to  add the “ Malnutrition Room ” room at the Orphanage,  which  is home to the most medically fragile children who require specialized support for their survival, to our   FSP  project budget. 

 While immensely satisfying, this addition to our program roster is also heartrending: we have lost three of  these fragile  children   in the past 6 months.

Our New Project

Our support for  the Orphanage includes assuming  the salary responsibilities  of the  two full time staffers  who man  the Malnutrition Room 24/7.  Additionally , we feel that human touch and kindness is an essential part of the care of all children, so  we have  recruited 3 of our older teenagers from own   FSP families. These young women  volunteer ½ day of  their time 3 to 4 days per week working to play and provide comfort  through physical contact to the children. Our young volunteers   also serve  as helpers with  diaper changing and feeding  for these and other children at the Orphanage. We pay their transportation costs.

There are currently about 115 children at the Orphanage:  1/3 have AIDS, the remaining children sufferfrom serious medical conditions including Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome and a variety of  severe birth defects. Many of these children  are bedbound and are not able to feed themselves.  Particularly for children with severe CP, feeding can take considerable time.  The total cost of the support of the “ Malnutrition Room “  program assistance is  $ 6,000  to $ 7,000  per year.

Our Service Team Results

The students and teachers who were on the Seisen Service Team returned to school in the fall,  eager to tell about their experience in Cambodia.  The enthusiasm of  the entire  team , both  students teachers alike, created an amazing “ Can do” attitude and a willingness to do their best at each and every task. It was the great success of the Seisen Service Team  that inspired Kasumisou Foundation  to take on the responsibility funding the Malnutrition Room at the Municipal Orphanage and  to encourage our own Family Support teenagers to get involved and  to give something  back to children who are even less fortunate than themselves.

Our sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone at Seisen International School and the entire Service Team for a great joint project. We cannot think of a better way to start a Service Team program.

Making a connection....
Making a connection....
Patience and encouragement make meals  happier
Patience and encouragement make meals happier
Contentment....
Contentment....
Individual attention is a rare pleasure
Individual attention is a rare pleasure
A gentle touch overcomes language differences
A gentle touch overcomes language differences

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Organization Information

Kasumisou Foundation

Location: Menlo Park, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.kasumisou.org
Project Leader:
Barbara Rosasco
Secretary/Treasurer
Menlo Park, Ca. United States
$72,196 raised of $99,999 goal
 
350 donations
$27,803 to go
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