Arts Therapy Clinic-Children in Crisis-CAMBODIA

by The Ragamuffin Project

Can we make our employees the healthiest and happiest? Strengthening Policy, Practice and Accountability for Staff Care and Well-being with Organisations working in Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. 

Alongside the delivery of our therapeutic services Ragamuffin Cambodia have been developing a Staff Care and Well-being certificate training programme in partnership with Chab Dai and their partner organisations working in the fields of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Stress management and vicarious trauma is a critical issue. We work closely with organisations such as Chab Dai Partners  to address the impact of stress related symptoms such as compassion fatigue and burnout. Sustaining staff in this way helps maintain the service they provide.

'Frontline staff deal with trauma, distress and challenge on a daily basis. Even those with the biggest hearts and capacity to care will be affected at some stage. The provision of adequate support and care is an essential pre-requisite for the sustainability of any programme'.

Phase one involved an intensive de-briefing process to also identify and assess the ongoing needs of 10 frontline organisations. Findings included:

  • High levels of stress were reported in all organisations
  • 80% of organisations needed to create a Staff Care Policy
  • Critical gaps emerged in professional competency identified in key areas (such as therapeutic skills, supervision, conflict mediation, child protection, cross-cultural communication…)
  • 100% organisations identified the urgent need to de-brief. 

As a result of the findings from the assessment phase into the well-being, Ragamuffin introduced a 2-step programme to include:

1.   The Introduction of a Certified Foundation course in ‘Staff Care and Wellbeing’.

2.   To work towards the creation of Statutory and National Minimum Standards for Staff Care & Wellbeing in the NGO and statutory sector through a National Forum.

It aimed to provide a foundation for the creation of our joint vision to explore a Staff-Care and Well-Being Minimum Standards Policy for Cambodia; one that is practicable, achievable and effective.

The goal was to equip leaders and advocates for staff well-being both within their organisations and across Cambodia. Such an initiative to then have the potential for dissemination into other contexts around the world.

7 organisations took part in the foundation course.

Experiential training modules covered the following subjects:

  • Policy & Protocol – The development of a Staff Care and Wellbeing Policy with reference to the overall Organisational Culture of Care. This will act as a document that identifies  and affirms the values, ethos and features of a caring organisation and guides the organisation to that end.
  • The creation and application of staff care & training plans and personal tools for self care
  • Understanding Therapeutic Clinical Supervision, Personal Therapy, Conflict Transformation (so that participants could explain these things  to someone else and identify when they are needed), along with Equal Opportunities and respect for difference (non-discrimination)
  • How to assess the needs of staff and refer accordingly and appropriately (i.e. who needs what and why?)

 Every module was rich in content and experience. Participants learnt through Ragamuffin’s creative, experiential training methodology, drawing from personal and professional experience and discovering the efficacy of each element of the course.

 In addition to addressing the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of individuals, and how they are to be met, it also considered qualification and training needs along with the balance and alignment of structures and systems within organisations with the care and well-being of individuals, staff teams and the organisation as a whole.

“Now that I am cared in this way for I can care for others all the more effectively and understand their needs more deeply”

 The objective was to have a resourced, effective and functional organisation – one that invests in, and cares for, its primary resource; its staff. It will identify and prioritise the needs of employees in the interests of both them, and the beneficiaries of the services provided.

 The course included: tutorials and mentoring as the staff care and well being protocols were applied in context. Case studies and examples of best practice were presented at the Forum.

70 representatives from a host of organisations were represented at the Forum. The aim of the forum was to work towards the creation of Statutory and National Minimum Standards for Staff Care & Wellbeing in the NGO and statutory sector in Cambodia.

Course participants contributed their findings and the attendees at the forum provided feedback through working groups and creative exercises. The day was of great value in shaping and further developing policy and practice. Participants were visionary, and, most importantly, grounded and practical people who all held a passion for strengthening staff care in their organisations and the sector. 

Ragamuffin are now working with Chab Dai to produce a manual to support the implementation of staff care policy and practice along with ongoing support for organisations to develop this further into their specific context. 

Staff care and well-being is a top priority and essential for effective ethical and professional practice for any organisation working in this field. We hope this model can act as an inspiration for other contexts around the world.

Thank you for supporting this vital work.

A group gathered today at ragamuffin to discover the power of creative writing as a means of expressing the things that are so ordinarily so hard to express in words.

Through the process of poem making  and letter writing profound insights emerged.
Such insights informed the processes of grief and brought great relief.
This gathered are working with vulnerable child who will benefit from this creative learning experience.
Ragamuffin is a place of inspiration and comfort
It empowers those who feel they have lost control of aspects of their lives.
It is a place of restoration and redemption and a place of peace.
Cambodian graduates from our arts therapy courses have been running a programme of care for extremely vulnerable young women. Girls who have been abandoned and ostracised. They have found a place where they belong. A place where they can be listened to as they recover a sense of dignity and self respect,m and the realisation that they are worthy members of society with a great deal to give.
Such examples are always so inspiring and humbling.
They are unforgettable.
Just as each individual is unforgettable.
They’re the reason we’re here.
We at Ragamuffin are committed to the relief of broken hearts and shattered lives - it is with your help that this is possible.

Since the beginning of June this year, we have been delivering a self-development therapeutic training programme to a group of thirty young vulnerable women. They range in age from fourteen to nineteen years old and they come from complex background and have who suffered from sexual abuse, domestic violence, HIV, abandonment by family, and social stigma. Some of them are currently living in residential care and some have already been reintegrated to live independently or with their relatives. This project aims to improve their emotional resiliency, develop their inner strength, discover positive resources, and build up their self-confident to enable them to improve their quality life. Part of the programme also enable them to support younger peers and siblings as they share what they have learnt to many more children and act as role models and mentors.

So far, the group have been doing very well with and have formed a community that has profound care, understanding and support for each other. They have begun the journey of self-discovery to reflect on key themes such as ‘who I am’, stress management, inner strengths, and self-care. During the process, the girls shared their experience of how this support group has helped them to feel accepted, nurtured, and loved from the other girls and the therapy team. For example, one girl have said "this is the first time in my life that I have felt that my heart is  listened to and heard”. Another said “this course and my friends here have made me feel respected no matter what happened to me in the past, I now know it doesn’t matter how I look, I feel acceptable as I am. I have never imagine I could have ever feel this way as I am an orphan who lives with HIV and I often feel I do not deserve love or belong to anyone life".  We are now together on a very important journey to help the girls to continue their self-discovery, and to empower them to activate and vibrate love within their lives and with each other. With such an inspirational group, this programme aims to ripple out into the lives of all those around them as we actively engage them in building supportive, empowering and care-giving communities. Thank you for all your support.


Ragamuffin Cambodia ‘Be Yourself’ Arts Therapy Service for Vulnerable Young Women

‘Be yourself’ project was established in 2012 as the fist Cambodian led Arts Therapy Project within Ragamuffin Cambodia. The aim of this project is to bring healing, nurturing, honoring, and celebrating the personal capacity, uniqueness, and self-care. The project is committed to providing a creative healing process for individuals and groups of young people and adults who have suffered from trauma and psychological challenges, in order to discover their essence of self, connectedness, growth, and to lead a good quality of life and relationships. Our project strongly believes in the power of self-connectedness that allows the young people to be themselves, to transform and celebrate their life, and other people. So far, our work in Cambodia, we have been working with many young people who have been suffering with psychological and physical trauma, attachment issue, chronic disease, poverty, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and other types of abuse. Through out our work, we have learnt that there have been a significance lack of mental, spiritual and physical health care and support that caused by social stigma, domestic violence, and poverty in their communities. As a result, they found themselves very disempowered, worthless, and invisible in society.

It is changing times in Cambodia as there is a gradual move from residential care structures to community led initiatives for children and young people. Transitions are complex and have revealed a fundamental need for psychological support and creative approaches to building resillience. The Therapy team have been working with young women in such transition through the provision of individual and group arts therapy sessions. As a result of these sessions the team have been designing a training programme in order to provide a more intensive programme of support. The team have been engaged in intial sessions with individuals, assessment and liasion with local NGO's and curriculum design to enable the launch of the next phase.

For this new group, our project aims to provide the opportunity to 30 young women to receive in depth therapeutic care and support in collaboration with local NGO's in Cambodia for recruiting and referring clients.

Project: ‘Lotus’ A 12 week therapeutic course to empower young vulnerable women in Cambodia.

Aims: This project aims to redeem and develop their inner strength, discover positive resources for life, and build relationships to achieve the following:

  • To empower these young women to celebrate their inner strengths and life
  • To increase the self-esteem, self-discovery, and self-awareness
  • To have safe space and opportunity to express feelings in creative way with therapeutic space
  • To discover hopes and resources (better coping mechanism)
  • To nature the quality of life and to redeem the self-resilience and personal development

The reasons why this training will be an important transition for the girls because most of girls we have been working with have been through so much difficulties in their lives such as abandonment since childhood, discrimination, bullying, sexual abused, health issue, and complex attachment problem. All these problems have result both social and self-stigma in their life and have impacted in varies ways on both inter and intra personal relationship, well-being, self- esteem, confident, and quality of life. For example, some of girls were unable to take on or do well in their vocational training or at school though they were given the opportunity to be on the course due to issue of low self esteem and low-confident to learn or take on new things. Most of them have continued to lead their lives vulnerably or fail to achieve their goal after leaving their NGOs.

Throughout this special program, we do hope that it will give them the opportunity to bring remarkable changes into their life by helping them to discover their strengths, empower themselves, to bring more self awareness, to better nurture their lives, restore self-confidence, and redeem from their emotional wound that enable them to pass their support toward others. We believe that “when a person can find light within herself, she will be stronger and more resillient. Then they can also become the light for others or can help other people to find their light and hope too”.

Beauty In the Midst of Chaos 

Our Arts Therapy Clinic Team in Cambodia work with those who live in or have experienced situations of chaos from trafficking, domestic violence and abuse to being diagnosed with HIV or loosing a parent. Arts Therapy works towards enabling those in chaos to channel their experience into creativity and so discover their inner resources and resilience that they need to cope with situations that they so very often are unable to change. 

Ragamuffin provided a three-day Arts Therapy continuing professional development training for arts therapists, counsellors, social workers and professionals who support vulnerable people groups.

There are so many events in life we have little control over; these events take their course for better, for worse. When things seem to fall apart what place does Creative Therapy have in the midst of internal and external chaos? This training taught fundamental principles of Arts Therapy in addressing the deeply unsettling issues in our lives and our world. 

 "Working with deaf people is very difficult, Arts Therapy is a very effective approach to help them engage and express their inner world... they often feel so victimized by society, what I have learnt will help me to support them to be deeply heard, valued and respected" (Social Worker - course participant)

"The workshop of Creative Art Therapy helped me to step into and deal with chaos by using myself as artist. It has made me know more clearly about myself.  It has helped me face chaos and not avoid it. Now I really know more about the beauty of chaos and how to deal with it in my own life and especially how to deal with the very vulnerable children I support as a school counsellor. I feel that Art therapy is medicine for these children who live with so much violence, abuse and poverty". 

"The workshop showed me how to see the darkness of people around me. I have learnt how Arts Therapy can deal with mental health as well as depression, trauma, stress, reduce anger, reduce abusive behavior and so on. I will use this experience to help the children I work with and support". (School Counsellor - course participant)

"I know where my chaos is, how to deal with it, accept it and use it as for transformation. I have really discovered that chaos is my gift that has made me into the strong woman I am today and enables me to work with children in the most difficult circumstances and situations of suffering". (Counsellor - course participant) 

Ragamuffin continues to provide its Arts Therapy Service for children in crisis. The following is a statement from our senior Arts Therapist reflecting on her work with children who live with HIV:

"Throughout my therapeutic work this year, I have been continuing working with young orphans who have had HIV since they were born. After several sessions of psychological therapy with creative arts therapy, they have had significance improvement in their stress management skills, self-care, problem solving ability, and have become more emotionally stable in their daily life even though they continue to live with the same chaotic life situation, with chronic illness and social stigma. They found Arts Therapy to be the sacred medicine to heal their broken hearts, to discover their soul, and build a new relationship with themselves physically. As a result they have found new hope and courage to move on in life.

We would like to thank very much for all our sponsors through global giving and the global giving team for all your generous support in helping these young vulnerable people. Your support really means so much to them it helps them to find new chapter in their life and to create an inspirational history on this earth that will inspire many other vulnerable people in Cambodia to learn about hope and resilience in the midst of chaos." (Serey Samchet - Arts Therapist)

Thank you from Ragamuffin Cambodia!!!


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Organization Information

The Ragamuffin Project

Location: Phnom Penh, NA - Cambodia
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Carrie Herbert
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
$17,035 raised of $50,000 goal
231 donations
$32,965 to go
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