Arts Therapy Clinic-Children in Crisis-CAMBODIA

by The Ragamuffin Project
Mar 8, 2012

Run for Hope - Supporting Arts Therapy in Cambodia

Run for Hope - Welsh women run half marathon for Ragamuffin Arts Therapy Centre Cambodia

Run for Hope - Three welsh women are running with Ragamuffin Cambodia on the 11th of March in the 1st Sihanoukville International Half Marathon for Ragamuffin's Creative Arts Therapy Centre - all donations will go towards providing an opportunity for vulnerable and traumatized young people to benefit from Wilderness and Creative Arts Therapy. This will enable them to build confidence, self-esteem, strengths and hope in managing complex life challenges such as violence, abuse and poverty.


As Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapy Clinic for children and young people continues to grow and develop we have a challenge to resource and fund this ongoing work.

In partnership with six organisations, Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapists are working with children and young people with diverse needs and who are often from complex and extremely difficult socio/economic backgrounds for example:


  1. Children who live with HIV and have lost one or both parents from the disease.
  2. Those who have experienced abuse or the violence of being trafficked and sexually exploited.
  3. Children who grow up in families where domestic violence and addictions are prevalent.
  4. Children in situations of poverty where they are forced to be involved in child labour to enable their family to survive
  5. Children whose home is the streets or beach and are at risk from being exploited
  6. Families who have been evicted from their land and have become refugees in their own country


Creative arts therapy for Individuals and groups of children from challenging backgrounds where there is poverty, domestic violence, abuse, addictions and child labour.


The children attending Arts Therapy sessions have demonstrated the capacity to build strong connections and friendship both with each other and the therapists. They have understood the process and allowed themselves to become deeply involved with both their creative process and their challenging life experiences. They have been able to be more aware and express their feelings through different arts form such as drawing, singing, picture making, movement and play.


“when I drew the picture, I thought of my family’s problem and I have put all the feelings inside this image and this made me feel so much relief ” (10 year old client)


The group of children have learnt how to respect each other, to understand their personal and the group’s boundaries through their play and establishing corporate ground rules. They report experiencing warmth and love from each other as they have been learning to listen, hear and respect each other. Exploring understanding, empathy and forgiveness. Practicing how to manage relationships with each other in a safe and healthy way is enabling them to not follow destructive role models in their village and community life, enabling them to be more empowered. Some children noticed the positive changes happened to a few children in their group. For example, one of the boys said:


Recently, I noticed how Meyya has changed a lot since she came to Ragamuffin, she did not curse or beat other children in the village like before, the older children do that – its like you are showing us a new way”


Due to the organization and therapy team observation and the children’s own reflections, all the children do not have any safe place for them to play within their community. Coming to the arts therapy group has given them the opportunities to explore their creativity, resilience and positive resources, capacity to build up good relationships, to be connected, to be heard, and to be themselves. There were some key themes emerged through their arts work such as child labour, violence, family problem and poverty. Children have witnessed the violence of their family and other children’s family. They have suppressed a lot of individual and collective and trauma, and they were impacted in various ways such as losing motivation at school, depression, stealing, using drug, and bullying other. This creative arts therapy is critical for the development of these vulnerable children both now and in the future.


Development of research partner – The International Resilience Centre, Canada.

In order to both strengthen our research into the effectiveness of the clinic and also to explore and measure the impact of arts therapy on the levels of resilience in children and young people who use the service. The ragamuffin project are partnering with a pioneering International programme and will become one 5 programmes around the world exploring and disseminating models of best practice when working with young people.


Wilderness Therapy and therapeutic use of the Outdoors -

In September 2011 we were also joined by a Wilderness Therapist, Lois Woodward from the UK who is bringing a new and innovative dimension to our therapeutic service to include the therapeutic use of the outdoors, in adventure, play and outdoor pursuits.

These two recent developments are helping Ragamuffin develop the clinical work into new and rigorous areas and we are excited as a team of the benefits to Cambodian young people who face challenges.


“The children are lucky to have Ragamuffin’s support. I’ve noticed that they have better self-esteem, have less behavioural problems and are more open to exploring how we might support their medical care.” (Partner rganisatin Social Worker)


“Our collaboration with Ragamuffin is critical for the well-being of our clients, we are so please to have this partnership and see the benefits it is having. In the future we hope that this service can benefit all the clients in our care”  (Director of Partner organisation)


The partnerships also help Ragamuffin to support and respond to critical incidents and emergencies for the teams. Recent critical incident de-briefing has been provided for one partner who have been working to support children and women on the frontline of community land rights and eviction processes in Cambodia. A safe place where they can bring the impact of the work on themselves and receive professional supervision enables them to be more effective in the care of those they work with.


“As I am a Khmer citizen as well as an art therapist with Ragamuffin, I am really please and proud that a clinic such as Ragamuffin exist in Cambodia.  The Ragamuffin Project the few clinics was having the standard professional in Cambodia to use creative therapy tools. More than a year that I have been working as an Art Therapist in Ragamuffin, I have worked with many children that make me realize how they live in suffering condition, which affected from society to their life. Trauma affects the quality of their human being because those children are living with suffering that penetrates deeply on their soul and their inner strength. Moreover, there are many children that could not safe with themselves at all. At the event that they have chances to healing from Clinic Art Therapy of Ragamuffin, I can comprehend positive change of them since they can use the inner strength from oneself.


I do not want the trauma to continue from generation after generation, it makes my heart ache. When I have worked with those children, they have told me that they like to come here to “Ragamuffin”, moreover, this place is not only a beautiful place, but it also provides them a peaceful, safety and healing that they have never had besides this place it’s a place where they can truly be themselves and recover their heart and soul. 

I hope this Clinic will continue to receive funding in order to continue helping children in Cambodia and provide them a chance to explore, express, and acknowledge their emotions, their world and process, and allows traumatized children the ability to search deep within themselves and help them gain inner strength and confidence”. (Panchakna Khlok)

“I think it is so important for Ragamuffin clinic to be founded for a long-term work at least for another 5 years in order to ensure the sufficient healing to the clients. Right now, I have provided ongoing therapy to 36 fragile clients including individual and group work. All my clients are suffered by severe depression, anxiety, and behavioural problems that are caused by sexual abuse, domestic violent, addiction, and HIV aid. The clients have found this therapy process as the breath and sacred space to look deeply into their inner world that is full of unresolved conflict. And, it also helps them to find new positive relationship between their inside and outside world, and to navigate new hope, new way to solve their conflict, and to embrace self-love one again. Therefore, if the therapy process is uncompleted, their journey of self-discovery of finding light is stopped, and this will give strong impact to their courage and hope to move on in life. Obviously, they would go back to the same state of mind or left with many unprocessed or unresolved issue”. (Serey Samchet – Arts Therapist)

Why is the Ragamuffin Arts Therapy clinic important?

  • Firstly, Ragamuffin clinic is the only provider of art therapy in Cambodia and one of two specialist child mental health services.
  • The clinic has qualified art therapists which provide a high quality service.
  • The clients have the chance to work through deeper emotional issues, which may never otherwise be possible and so discover relief from a variety of symptoms of distress. 
  • Cambodia has had such hardships in the past and emotional and psychological health is a service area that is overlooked and not prioritised. There is a direct correlation between a person’s mental health and their ability to become an active and healthy citizen.
  • Having a safe, caring environment for clients to explore their own thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental environment is rare.
  • The clinic has many beneficiaries, the clients, their familiars, partnerships, society and even at a conscious level for all of human kind, healing one heart one step at a time, will influence the greater consciousness of this country and this region.

What if the funding ends, what will happen and what will be the impact on the client and family?

  • If funding ends it does not only affect the current clients, but also the future clients that desperately need this service.
  • If we take this service away, Cambodians are left with a big hole, where the clients cannot access qualified creative arts therapist.
  • The clients emotional and wellbeing will be negatively affected and thus, may serve a greater threat to the future of the clients being.
  • Each individuals emotional growth and healing has no time limit and if we dictate a result without the consent of the client, individuation cannot be attained and hurt the clients sense of self.
  • Client’s emotional and psychological problems in their very real lives are vast and deep, hence finding answers can take time, if the funding ends client’s solutions to their vast thoughts and feelings will be hindered.

(The Ragamuffin Clinical Team 2012)


Every contribution makes a difference.


Thank you for your contribution and ongoing support. 


Carrie Herbert on behalf of the Ragamuffin Team Cambodia

Director of Arts Therapy Services

March 2012


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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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