Arts Therapy Clinic-Children in Crisis-CAMBODIA

by The Ragamuffin Project
Jan 13, 2011

Ragamuffin's Arts Therapy Clinic Cambodia - responding to emergencies and trauma

 September to January has already seen significant developments and growth in Ragamuffin’s work in Cambodia and Asia.

Ragamuffin’s Arts Therapy Clinic for children and young people has now been set up. 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 socio/economic backgrounds for example:

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

Working with Partner Organisations enables us to develop joined up services; strengthen the capacity of the organisation’s psychological services through training; develop policies and protocols for safeguarding children and provide programmes of individual and group Creative Arts Therapy. Ragamuffin’s Therapists provide a specialist service that works alongside social workers, caregivers and medical staff.

One member of the team recently joined us from the US; a Cambodian/American Arts/Play Therapist, returning to Cambodia for the first time.

“I have been on the Ragamuffin team for only three weeks and yet, I feel as though I have always been a part of this team.  Leaving the comforts of home was a difficult decision, but I feel honoured and privileged to work with such an amazing team that understands and stands true to the philosophy that art heals. Being here just reaffirms my belief that the Cambodian people needs the creative arts as a means to heal, to express, to comfort their souls in times of hardship.“ (Chatti – Cambodian/American Arts/Play Therapist)

Ragamuffin House is a unique sanctuary for Creative Arts Therapy, Training and Supervision. The environment reflects an ethos of peace, safety, healing and playfulness. An outdoor meditation garden brings the symbols of nature to support anyone who comes for Arts therapy. For those who have lost their homes and land Ragamuffin has been like a bridge to their new lives.

“We have everything in Ragamuffin. It’s like a boat and a lake that provides us with life and the resources of nature and I feel so happy coming here to express all my sorrow in life. We feel safe and secure here. Ragamuffin can provide us with all the things we need to find our light inside. It gives us strength to commit to help ourselves in order to find our light, our true life and have a happy heart again - to realise that even though we have lost everything, seeds of hope can still grow in our hearts.” (Client from an Evicted Community)


Responding to Emergencies - Koh Pich Bridge Stampede

During this time, Cambodia has suffered a tragedy. On November 22, 2010, during Cambodia’s most celebrated Water Festival, a stampede on Koh Pich Bridge in Phnom Penh killed 347 people and injured over 700. Working alongside organisations involved in frontline care, Ragamuffin has been providing Arts Therapy sessions for survivors and de-briefing for organisations responding to the emergency.

“I have been working with a child who experienced trauma reactions due to the incident at the Koh Pich bridge stampede.  Our main goal is to not only decrease his symptoms, but also to build his inner strength so that he is able to self regulate his responses to cultural superstitious beliefs (ghosts).  Since seeing the child, he has reported improvements in his symptoms.  His mother also reported that after the first session, her son has begun to be himself again.  Sessions involve using a child-centered approach in which the child leads the way during the session and has control over what he does.  He has chosen to work with the  sand tray, to draw, and to play the musical instruments.  I feel that creative therapy will provide this child with a safe container in which to express his inner turmoil and struggles until his symptoms of distress have ceased.” (Chatti – Arts/Play Therapist)

Reaching out beyond

Training Needs Assessments with Organisations working with Vulnerable Children and Communities in Tamil Nadu, India.

In September, Ragamuffin’s Directors and a Cambodia Arts Therapist went to Tamil Nadu, in Southern India to work intensively with two organisations who provide critical support for street and working children and vulnerable communities. We provided basic training in psychological care and conducted a training needs assessment to explore the existing capacity of the organisation, with specific reference to its psychosocial care and therapeutic services, and make recommendations for their development. We considered the quality of psychological care and also the context in which such care takes place.

The scope of these assessments was broad and included: policies, protocols, organisational culture, team dynamics, the management of team dynamics and conflict, management structures and systems as well as the existing competencies of individual staff and team functioning. All these things are directly relevant to any meaningful Training Needs Assessment that aims to strengthen an organisation’s psychological services and our input was wholeheartedly embraced by these organisations. The demands on them are considerable, and support in the form of training and supervision was recognized as critical to long-term sustainability.

Retreats for Emergency and Humanitarian Aid Workers – Caring for the Caregivers

As the Asian Region has, and is suffering from many natural disasters, Ragamuffin has been working with Satori (a Bali based organisation) in providing therapeutic retreats for humanitarian and emergency aid workers. These programmes began in November 2010 and aim to provide critical de-briefing, recovery, restoration and tools to enable resilience for those in the field as one participant experienced.

“I burned out doing international development work in Afghanistan and East Africa, and I have been on a year-long quest to restore balance to my life.  I wish I had discovered Satori much sooner.  Satori’s kind and gifted facilitators helped me define my path to greater balance in my life and accelerated my progress by introducing me to tools I didn’t know existed and alerting me to strengths I didn’t know I had.  I feel more whole, more resilient and more “myself” as a result of this beautiful program.  Thank you, Satori.” (Participant)

“The Ragamuffin project has been instrumental in providing support to Satori Worldwide in several areas, including strategic planning during the development phase as well as therapeutic services during retreats. The founders of Satori have relied heavily on input from the Ragamuffin project because of its intimate knowledge of trauma and recovery as it plays out in the humanitarian context, and the innovative ways in which it teaches people to manage it. The Ragamuffin Project forms an invaluable part of the team” (Renee, Co-founder and Director of Satori Worldwide)

2011 - The Year ahead 

2011 is going to be an exciting and challenging year! As the Ragamuffin Clinic grows we will also be building the capacity of Cambodians in Arts Therapy through our Foundation and Advanced Level Training Programme. We remain fully committed to this work to work in the region with our Asian Team, supporting those who work in emergencies and responding to people who are hurting and suffering.

The part you play…

We could not do this work without the commitment and support of a dedicated team of sponsors and funders. Your contributions make a direct impact and difference to the lives of those who suffer. Without your support this work cannot hope to meet the demand and grow.

Thank you for choosing to be part of Ragamuffin’s work to help restore those whose lives have been shattered or broken.


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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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