Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia

by Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia

Project Report | Mar 14, 2024
Education and Vocational Training for our Girls

By Catherine Louise Geach | Founder

 

 

Dear Kind Donors,

We Thank you from our Hearts for the precious and life-saving support you have given us these last few months. In this report today, I will look to our History a little bit, before explaining what we and our Children, especially a large number of Girls in our care are facing now.

The Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute, was founded and ratified in 1993 as one of the first ever Cambodian NGOs, and then built in Southwestern Kampot in 1994, during the civil war and near a Khmer Rouge stronghold.

For thirty years, our School has taken care of the most vulnerable of Children, whilst reviving and preserving Traditional Cambodian Music and Culture, so badly damaged during the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-79), which killed one third of the Population and 90% of Cambodian Artists.

Challenges

During our three-decades of service, where all our Staff are Cambodian, we have often met the heart-breaking challenge, of being given into our care, small Girls, who have lost their parents, but been severely abused and used as labour by extended families, whilst being denied an education. We have also faced frustrating challenges of the same relatives, who, after abandoning a small Girl, (after some years have passed), want them back, because they see them as useful labour , an asset in trafficking, or arranged-marriage material.

There are loopholes in Cambodian law, which make it very difficult to fight for Children in these circumstances. Girls also especially, face many pressures, emotional and psychological to conform and please their families. However, such conformation and the crushing of inward hopes and talents, very often leads to misery and often great poverty. As founder, I myself have activated the Ministery of the Interior, Cambodian and Thai border police to rescue a young girl taken illegally over the border into Thailand. At other times, I have gone in hot pursuit to bring to safety Girls who are at risk of being sold into prostitution.

Although the World Economic Forum states that Cambodia has a growth rate of between 2.5-5%, the Truth, (for 70% of the population living in rural areas), is very different. During the Pandemic, we gave out 4,000 cooked meals to ordinary people who were facing starvation and around 2,000 Emergency Food Packages and Counselling to families. Many live on the verge of catastrophe, managing to earn so little, as to have nothing in reserve if illness, disoccupation or old age comes. Children, the elderly, sick and disabled, are almost always forgotten, but yet are most at risk. Of these, Girls often pay the highest price, through being sold or cooerced into prostitution, or being exposed to sexual abuse if their parents have abandoned them into the hands of a relative who cannot care for them adequately or is affected by substance abuse. It is Girls who must also leave school earlier in order to work in the fields or in a factory, or who must marry whilst still in their teens in a marriage where money has exchanged hands between their relatives. Of all these points above, our School has had direct experience.

In this fragile economy for many Cambodians, women who work on building-sites, have no fixed address and so they cannot send their Children to school. Sometimes we receive cases where they have not been paid and are so destitute as to be on the streets with their Children, unable to return to their villages in another Province.

Single women with Children, unmarried pregnant women often with mental disorders are terribly vulnerable together with their small Children, and need immediate help and succour.

Our School is a member of International Childsafe and for each case of a Child in desperate need, in danger, or requiring swift intervention, we coordinate with local Authorities, sometimes the police and our local Childsafe Partners. Our Staff also receive training from International Childsafe for Childcare, Child Protection and PSEA (Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse).
One of our constant experiences and observations, is that there is no blanket rule that can be given by International organizations and Western governments on the care of orphaned and abandoned Children in the world. Such legislation must not be prey to fashions or social-media influencers campaigning against special care centres in favour of family-care only. In an ideal situation, a loving mentally-stable family would be the answer. But what can be done, when a family has abused or neglected a Child and where social norms in a particularly Country make “foster-care” a non-viable option, because Children are then very vulnerable to being used for labour and treated as “second-class” citizens? Common sense, flexibility and Goodness, not ideologies, must therefore prevail for the well-being of the Child.



What our School does to overcome Challenges

We do our absolute best, by providing each Child, each Girl who comes into our care, with a proper Scholastic Education, tuition in Traditional Cambodian Music, Cambodian Ballet and Performing Arts and Vocational Training, inspiring each young Person, to look upward and fulfill their unique gifts. We also support our young Students as they approach adulthood, with college and university if they choose.

Those who live in residence at our School, are those who have nowhere safe to go. Their parents have died, or they have been abandoned. Some have no living relative left, whilst others have had relatives who have abused them, neglected them or used them. There are some Girls who are in our protective custody, having endured life-changing injuries from prior domestic abuse.
When we do have cases of an elderly grandmother who is good and kind, but due to ill-health, dire poverty, combined with living in a remote area far from a school, then we do all we can to keep that loving tie and Children and Grandparent can see each other often. We also keep siblings together. Additionally we help with temporary Care if a Child has a loving parent who is in prison or afflicted in some way and needs help. Then we support that parent (often a single-parent), so that they can get back on their feet and be able to take care of their Child again.

Our School takes full-time 24 hour care of all Children in Residence. We enable all our Children to attend state school in the mornings and all of our Children participate in National Curriculum and Exams up until university entrance level.

The afternoons (on weekdays), are dedicated to Traditional Cambodian Music (Pin Peat, Plein Ka, Mohori), Classical Cambodian Dance, Folk Dance, ancient Yike Dance and Music, Lakoun Sabaik Toch’ (small Shadow Puppet - artisan production and performance cycles). This specialist very high quality training from Cambodian Masters who are from the Royal University of Fine Arts and National Theatre, helps ensure that Cambodia's nearly two-thousand year old heritage, is kept alive for future generations. We also have many Students who have graduated and become well-known professional Musicians and Dancers.

Those Students who are older and do vocational training or as in the case of our Blind Students, have their own professional Traditional Music ensemble, are supported in their choices and growth.

Our School sits within a large garden full of flowers and trees and birds and fish ponds. There is a nice sand-pit with a slide and roundabout and pathways that connect all the buildings to facilitate access for wheelchair users.

Emergency Shelter and Emergency Food Packages

We take temporary care of homeless women with young Children, coordinating with local authorities and Childsafe Partners to find a solution, or support their travel costs back to their village.

In the case of pregnant women, we help take care of them during pregnancy, labour and birth and after birth with their new-born. During the birth, we are supported by social services from the local authorities. This requires a lot of Time and Dedication on the part of my wonderful Cambodian colleagues.

There is no other place in all of Kampot Province that provides shelter for destitute pregnant women and mothers. We then coordinate with NGOs in Phnom Penh, who are specialized with providing training for young-mothers with young babies. Often, such mothers have mental illness and eventually are quite unable to care for their child, in which case special attention is given to assist both mother and child in their seperate needs.

Our Emergency Food Package and Counselling Program goes often to the remotest parts of Kampot Province. Through the provision of these supplies and if necessary counseling, we try to help families through periods of great struggle, thus safeguarding their Children and especially Girls from ending up on the street, but also from being sold. Many people would never dream of doing this, but still, there are many cases of trafficking. Therefore we must provide support before such families become desperate. We also follow-up and give other forms of support if Children are unable to attend school because of poverty, so that Children can then go to school.

We have a network of almost all our former Students dating back since 1994. Many of them come to visit us, bringing with them their own Children. We have former Girl-Students, now women who work in many fields. One former student, Vy Lyda, who teaches Folk Dance at our School, after graduation ten years ago, set up her own dance company. Others have gone to university (working in economy), teaching college (and are now teachers), Musicians, Doctors, the Council of Ministers etc;

Hidden from the eyes of the world, are countless hours and days of steadfast love and dedication on the part of my dear Colleagues. Many sacrifices, and endurance and tears and Joy. The care of Children who have suffered greatly, is a very long journey. It is indeed the Journey of a LifeTime.

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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Location: Kampot Town, Kampot Province - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Catherine Geach
Founder
Kampot Town , Kampot Province Cambodia
$151,243 raised of $200,000 goal
 
1,194 donations
$48,757 to go
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