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