Providing education for marginalized migrant youth in Thailand

DEPDC students

DEPDC students headed to class

GlobalGiving and donors have helped DEPDC fund many projects like a clean water source for the center and the education building that provides a free school in the day and a community-learning center in the evenings. Additionally, funds have helped provide education grants to send migrant children to school, provided a computer classroom, is currently fundraising to send 200 at risk children to school, and offering community learning center classes including English and business training. DEPDC supports the community in Mae Sai near the Thai-Burma border including Burmese children living in the border area and hill-tribe communities nearby.

Once within the facilities – I was greeted with children playing and bright colored buildings. At the front of the main building, immediately I saw a big sign over a door thanking GlobalGiving for the computer lab. I was then guided  on a tour of the DEPDC education building.

First I saw Child Voice Radio – a DJ training facility where students can learn how to DJ a radio station and speak on issues.  Then we went over to the broadcasting area – complete with stage, couches, and lighting as if ready for a talk show. Here DEPDC creates YouTube videos and provides opportunities for students to create alongside as well. Among these vocational training opportunities students can learn agriculture, weaving, and even intern through a youth leadership program. This is part of the Half Day Program where students receive formal education for half the day and vocational training of their choice the other half.

During my tour, I witnessed students in class, learning everything from math to teamwork and trust.  One of the classes for the older students occurred only on Fridays and focused on peace, self-confidence, and Thai culture. DEPDC provides a completely free education as opposed to the local Thai schools that are “free” but require students to pay for uniforms and books, which many families cannot afford. DEPDC also offers the opportunity for students who start kindergarten at 12 years old (because they could not attend before for many various reason) to learn at their level, comfort, and ability.  In addition to supporting youth in the day, these facilities host evening, community courses open to all community members.

DEPDC students in class

DEPDC students in class
Teamwork and Trust Activity

Teamwork and Trust Activity
GlobalGiving everywhere!

What is the impact? A majority of DEPDC students have no documentation or identification, are migrants that face poverty and discrimination, are unprotected and targeted by traffickers, and unaware of trafficking dangers. Now over 4000 children have been helped by DEPDC and provided an educational opportunity, vocational training, and self-empowerment to make informed decisions when facing dangers of poverty and trafficking.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention in Thailand – The SOLD Project

This is the home of one of The SOLD Project scholarship recipients. This recipient lost both of her parents, and currently her sister is raising both this girl and her young brother. They are at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

On May 10, I met with an organization that is addressing human trafficking and sexual exploitation from where it starts instead of at the end of the line. The SOLD Project is using education as a means of trafficking prevention from the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

I met with Shannon, Director of Interns and Volunteers, to visit The SOLD Project facility and resource center for youth. GlobalGiving funds provided a computer lab and provided new desks to this facility. When I arrived, a local university student was teaching students the importance of social media safety. A lesson I think we all could benefit from. Shannon shared that there are about 120 youth in its program in total, but about 20-30 attend daily. Youth spend their time after school, on weekends, and on breaks learning about computers, art, guitar, photography, and any other projects that volunteers and mentors wish to teach.

Class in session - Social Media Safety Training

Class in session – Social Media Safety Training

During computer time, I was able to sit down with a few of The SOLD Project’s scholarship recipients and get to know them better.

Cat, one of the first scholarship recipients, shared a bit about her background: Her favorite subjects include English and math. When not in school, Cat watches TV and listens to music. After high school she hopes to do something with communication and language. She loves to learn because of the variety of knowledge she gains, and she wants to learn more. After, she said “thank you very much for tables, chairs, and computers.” Because they have access to computers and Internet, they can all learn so much more. In addition to the computers, the new shiny desks were wonderful to see compared to the old ones that were falling apart.

Nan is another young student I spoke with who has applied to and just passed the entrance exam for a good school that teaches English and Chinese. In her free time she likes to listen to music and read books. Her favorite subject is language, and she hopes to pursue studying tourism when she gets to university.

I was told by one of the SOLD students that if SOLD wasn’t there, she would not have anything to do, be bored, and not be with friends. The SOLD Project provides an outlet for these youth – a chance to continue education past what they can afford, continue learning, and a safe place to be when not in school.

At the end of the day, I sat with staff and spoke about their backgrounds and what brought them to SOLD.  Many shared how their religious backgrounds drove them to work with an organization like SOLD, but all shared their passion and commitment to working for this organization.

Getting to know the students

Getting to know the students – looking at family pictures and sharing memories
Speaking with staff
The SOLD Project students playing at their school

If interested in learning more please go here: http://thesoldproject.com/about/ … and to support The SOLD Project go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/6013/the-sold-project/.

 

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Supporting schools and artisans in Laos

On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received GlobalGiving funding for renovation and to visit participants of the Micro-Credit weaving project.

at the SEDA supported school

at the SEDA supported school

This village’s income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school – the children have to go to the next town for high school. Before renovation, these classes were held in flimsy buildings that were practically huts with dirt floors.

Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the students were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.

I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs with us – the school currently needs science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.

speaking with students

Speaking with 2 students

classrooms receiving renovation

Classrooms receiving renovation

Renovated Classrooms

Renovated Classrooms

After visiting the school, we went on to visit participants of the Weaving Artisans – Micro Credit Project. SEDA was working with a specific village where the women are wives of handicapped military veterans – therefore usually the main income generator of the household.

We visited 3 women who benefited from and were part of this project. All three were highly grateful and dependent on the support of SouLy and SEDA for marketing and selling their work. Tuh, the 1st woman to participate in this textile project in thie village shared some of her beautiful work. She spoke about her current situation while we all sat on the front porch next to her large weaving machine. Tuh was an orphan who went to work at the handicapped veterans camp where she met her first husband. Now Tuh was a widow – twice she was married and both times they passed away leaving her alone to support herself and her children. I asked her what she was able to do with the money earned – and she said finally buy a computer for her kids.  She had been a weaver before, which is a tradition passed down, but now with the market testing of quality, color etc. SEDA helped bring her products to the market.

After, we met with another woman who was part of this project. We sat with her and her husband while she weaved. Her husband had lost both of his arms – but one wouldn’t notice from the great big smile he had when he greeted SouLy and myself upon arrival and sat laughing and talking with us. Both husband and wife were warm and welcoming eager to speak with me despite the language barrier.


visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

a weaving artisan with her husband

a weaving artisan with her husband

Creating beautiful and intricate traditional Lao skirts

with a SEDA weaving participant

with a SEDA weaving participant
 
The final product
Finally, we went to explore the local market so I can learn a little bit more of the culture through food, smells, and sounds.
 
Choosing from a variety of rice – who knew there were hundreds of types 
At the market in Vientiane Laos
Yummy dried frog dishes in the market…
… or perhaps you prefer beetles, grasshoppers, and grub worms?
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this project, experience how GlobalGiving funds were used, and learn more about the Lao culture.
*SEDA is now a for-profit entity called Guo Angkham Technical Expertise Ltd. (GATE)

Where nature meets technology and e-creativity – an environmental-education program to be replicated

Imagine entering your science class and the teacher says – “today we will learn how to create a video game, then you will create your own, enter it in competition, and then finish up playing the games.” I am sure your experience with textbook-based environmental awareness – the importance of nature, animals, plants, and RECYCLING – would be forever changed. Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (or YAWA) has partnered with corporate partners like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) to change the way environmental education is being taught in Malaysian schools – through technology training and creativity capacity-building.

Me with YAWA staff and current student now a volunteer trainer for new youth groups.

Through a train-the-trainer approach, youth train younger youth creating mentor-mentee relationships. This particular youth said before he did not know a lot about the environment, but now he knows more about things like recycling, has fun doing it, and now hopes to be a landscape architect.

One of the staff explained why she went from supporter, to volunteer, to staff with YAWA: Her own son had disabilities and was very shy. After joining the program, he started wanting to go all of the time and finally the pivotal day was when he asked his mom “to go home”. He was confident there and no longer needed her with him. She said she committed 100% to making sure he could make it to every YAWA activity because she saw the change in him. It gave him courage, and his grades even improved. Now he is a volunteer training younger youth.

at MyCore Cyberjaya (the tech-park of Kuala Lumpur) where a class is creating video games with environmental advocacy missions (defeating deforesters, poachers, gathering rubbish); AMD gave 112 pc’s to the program to promote the E-Creativity Green Competition

MyCORE was created through a government push for an educated and technoologically savvy population. It was looking to develop the job and economic future of Malaysia.  There they provide trainings and workshops.

The first collaboration AMD had was a road show to 10 states in Malasia for 9-12 year old students to compete in educational games. AMD gave 80 pc’s at first to 8 schools.

I was told that game development project not only cultivates creativity but develops skills for future careers.

Next we visited  YAWA Environmental Education and Interpretive Centre – students practicing combining entrepreneurship training through green-solutions, products, and businesses. This center is for youth to gather, organize, and meet building entrepreneurship skills, selling products, and starting businesses with a green-focus.  The picture above is one of the top students in the e-creativity competition demonstrating his environmental game that involved jumps, avoiding bad guys, grabbing rubbish, and depositing it in trash bins.

This group demonstrated their advocacy campaign by selling t-shirts they made about the environment with cool catchy slogans and colors

These 2 young women took old newspapers and made new paper to sell- they showed me how and then made a lovely card saying “thank you for coming”. Now I know what to do with all of my old newspapers – I never have to buy paper again.

This group was using old water bottles to create hydroponic plants and spices – which they then sold to the community.

This group of youth were practicing baking and fundraising… and creativity… by selling home-made sweets self-decorated  (even the icing was homemade.. and delicious).

Salina from AMD and me

with cupcakes to take home and the home-made card

Other projects not pictured were taking left over water bottles, fruits and vegetables to create home-made cleaners, soaps, and shampoos to sell in the community. Another project was to raise birds to sell eggs.

YAWA is trying to encourage the moving away from a culture of dependency and teach self-empowerment while also creating awareness about environment through a hands-on science education approach.

YAWA’s long term goal is to create a forest development center with land to provide hands on training for youth.

Although YAWA is not a current project featured on GlobalGiving, I visited because of GG’s involvement in the partnership between AMD and YAWA.  I was blown away by YAWA’s organizational structure, commitment and drive of its creators, staff, and volunteers (the volunteering and give-back culture of Malaysia is commendable and inspiring). Additionally, the students I met were learning not only about the value of recycling turning waste to new products, developing creative mind-sets, and practicing career skills that will support them for a lifetime. I would love to see these programs implemented in schools back home…

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

My Day with Lotus Outreach addressing Cambodia’s Sex Industry and Women’s Rights

On March 14, Alexis and I visited Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program. Bright and early we met up with Raksmey from Lotus Outreach. First, we attended a sewing training. This training is part of the non-formal education classes providing life skills, basic education, and small business training so that the girls have necessary skills to survive outside of the karaokes, massage parlors, and sex industry. These women are the most vulnerable group because some are illiterate and a large majority never completed higher than an elementary school education.

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

One of the sewing class trainees explained to me that she hopes to open a small business in her hometown someday. Another said she worked in a karaoke bar and found out about the training, so joined to have her own business one day. A third girl said she might not be able to work in a karaoke forever, so she needs more skills to prepare her for another job. I asked her why she worked in a karaoke and she said she could not find other work to support her child. The instructor’s assistant said before she was illiterate, but now she can do calculations, read, and write since she joined the NFE program.

Following the sewing class, we visited a non-formal education class at the housing accommodations of girls that work in a local “karaoke”. These karaokes serve as locations for men to enjoy the company of women with the option to gain more.

The challenge is that the families of these girls demand money and support so the girls not able to make enough money in traditional jobs have to take alternative forms of income generation that is quick and provides large sums – income generating activities such as selling their bodies. They often lack skills to gain more secure and higher wage jobs in places like the garment factories, so Lotus Outreach is providing the training and skills as well as job placement for girls in their NFE programs. Providing a sustainable and feasible alternative to the sex industry – a job that the girls can be proud of. Finally, we ended at another “karaoke” where Lotus Outreach provides Non-Formal Education and vocational training classes in beauty like hair, nails, and makeup for the girls to get out of the sex industry.

The trainer and trainees were busy practicing on each other – creating beautiful nail and hair designs. One of the trainees had barely received any formal education growing up, but now had skills that she could make a living for herself outside of the sex industry.  Soon after, the first customers began to arrive… and we knew it was time to leave. These young women were so inspiring to meet and hear their stories because despite their hardships, they still have hopes and dreams they are working to achieve. These young women live in such harsh conditions, but at the end of day still wake up to attend the basic education classes, to study, and to practice their vocational training to have another life.

with Non-Formal Education Class

with Non-Formal Education Class

After, Alexis and I visited recipients of the Lotus Pedals project. The recipients were 2 young girls who received a bike from the Lotus Pedals program.  Before they had the bikes, these girls would have to walk an hour just to get to school. Now the bikes cut the time in half, and they have more time to study in between school and work. Where do they work? The rubbish heaps nearby to earn extra income for the family. They pick things like plastic bottles and items that can be sold to recycling plants. The average income is $1.25USD per day picking rubbish.

The Louts Pedals project goal is to not only provide bicycles to young girls but to increase awareness about the importance of education for the family as a whole. Lotus Outreach works with families and the schools, before enrolling in the schools Lotus Outreach staff meets with parents to identify needs and challenges for the kids to get to school. Lotus Outreach also helps to decrease the gender gap between girls and boys.

Lotus Pedals recipients with bike

I asked one of the sister recipients what her favorite subject in school was and she said science because she loves the environment. The other said her favorite was social studies and Khmer traditional dancing class.  The father said he hoped for the future of his kids involved getting a good job and to stay in school as long as they could afford it.  I turned to the girls and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up – one said a primary school teacher and the other a doctor.

A change-agent in TB and HIV treatment for impoverished communities… a visit with Global Health Committee

Feb 29, 2012: I met with Dr. Sok Thim, co-founder and Executive Director, and Ung Prahors, Deputy Director, of Cambodian Health Committee in order to learn more about and visit the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital providing health care for impoverished communities affected by Tuburculosis and HIV for free, and visit the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center, a social and educational care center for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDs.

The day started with an introduction and background of Cambodian Health Committee and how it has developed into the now, Global Health Committee, in response to an expansion and replication of the successful local model of treatment and care. Dr. Sok Thim, co-founder, shared his inspiring story about surviving the  horrors of Khmer Rouge regime and the life-path that brought him to his experience and expertise in medical care via HIV treatment for impoverished communities (beginning in Cambodia-Thailand refugee camps with USAID). Through his experiences and developed expertise as well as Dr. Anne Goldfeld’s work as Senior Investigator at the Immune Disease Institute of Children’s Hospital Boston and a member of the Infectious Disease Division at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, together they created CHC. Even against all obstacles (such as refusal to mold program design and mission in order to fit bureaucratic demands) they persevered, and 10 years later earned the recognition they most deserved from local and international community. CHC’s model was so effective that its research has been published in the National Science Journal as well as is being replicated for Cambodia’s Ministry of Health. CHC has been asked to work with government hospitals and staff and is now focusing on improve quality of medical care through staff training.

In waiting play room with kids and families

I was able to meet several of the children who were being treated by Cambodian Health Committee, as well as their families. One woman was there because one child had HIV and the others did not – so the CHC made sure her and her baby were taken care of as well in order to accomodate for their long trek to get treatment for her child.  This waiting room was specifically a play room for kids waiting for treatment and care – full of toys, books, and tv!

CHC provided transportation for her to get to school and to the hospital. This was a major hope for Cambodian Health Committee to get more vehicles to safely transport their patients to receive treatment on a regular basis.


Gifts from the U.S.

We went up to the main CHC hospital office, and I was able to see the CAMELIA headquarters – a published research collaboration between US, French, and Cambodian clinicians and scientists. The office was an open space used for meetings and tracking HIV and TB cases all over the country on a giant, pin-board, wall map – with color coding to signify different types of medicine-immune cases. I learned that they also have field staff and social workers that go into the communities and work with patients once they can be returned to their homes. CHC believes that the best way to heal is under the least stressors and in their homes (as long as it is safe to go home for families) – as opposed to the traditional belief that patients should stay 100% in the hospital under observation.

with Cambodian Health Committee Staff and government staff

The staff I met explained that because of CHC they were able to provide care and treatment that they would not have been able to with the government program and budget. Cambodian Health Committee was able to fill the gaps and work synchronisticaly with the Cambodian Ministry of Health, supporting each other’s research, treatment, and care for their patients. Another staff member said that because of CHC support, they were able to revamp and improve facilities which were previously very old.

At the end, we visited the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center which provides active educational, medical and nutritional support for over 300 children from 179 families and provides lunch for approximately 130 children each day (source:Global Health Committee).

Kids playing soccer

Nap time

This was so cute, during the tour we came across nap time, it was adorable to see them all peacefully resting after a long day of school and play!

The MCCC playground and artwork done by Friends International beneficiaries! (Click here to read my post about FriendsInternational)

with Maddox Chivan Children’s Center kids

It was so wonderful and joyous – as soon as the kids heard the word picture, they came running and piling on top of each other to be in it. By the end of taking this shot we all were falling over and laughing so hard. The whole time the kids were coming up to me to say “Hello! What is your name?!”


with MCCC Staff and Kids – please note the angry birds picture in the middle. Kids love Angry Birds here!

It was a delightful and incredible day spent with the kids at MCCC as well as with the committed and driven staff at the hospital and Cambodian Health Committee office. On a personal note, it was difficult to witness people suffering through HIV and TB, but after seeing the care and research behind their treatment, and despite the patients’ difficulties, their strength and ability to smile and laugh still – was inspirational and soul-moving.

Some future goals for GHC that Dr. Sok and Prahors shared with me included (1) replication globally, (2) a 10-year program in human resource development medical training specifically for poor-family and communities care and support (this is to change the atmosphere with medical care in these communities to focus on staff attitude to create quality service), and (3) more vehicles to safely transport patients who have little to no way to go and receive care and treatment at the hospital.

A little side note – yes this is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with Global Health Committee head staff (including Dr. Anne Goldfeld). Angelina and Brad are supporters and funders of GHC programs as well as helped create the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center (named after their adopted son, Maddox, who is from Cambodia) and the upcoming Zara Children’s Center in Ethiopia (named after their adopted daughter Zara from Ethiopia). To learn more about Angelina’s participation click here.

To learn more about Global Health Committee: Click here.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here

What can I do for you? A story of Friends…International

This story is not about what you should do or what is best – this is about what can I do for you? That is how Friends International began. It began by asking, “what can I do for you? What do you need?” On 22 of February 2012 I was able to meet with staff from Friends International, recently voted Top 100 NGO in 2012 by Global Journal, as well as experience their work, “help out” in it, and live the impact. James and Charlotte welcomed me into their head office to share a bit about their backgrounds, the projects, and the impact.

Part I – Beginnings

Almost 15 years ago when Cambodia was opening up post Khmer Rouge, Sebastian, the Executive Director, was traversing through Cambodia on his way to Japan. While resting he noticed truck after truck of NGO and Aid vehicles passing by. But beyond the image of these, in the distance along the river, were homeless and suffering Cambodians and youth laying along the riverside. The amount of aid pouring into the country since it opened was enormous – but why were there so many homelss and impoverished youth untouched and unaffected, Sebastian thought.

Sebastian decided to start speaking to them about their stories asking them what they needed. The number of education facilities and orphanages were skyrocketing, but the surprising answer from these youth were not to go to school or for a bed –  they wanted work to support themselves and families.

Part II – An answer to the calling: 4 Friends Programs

Yes, educational opportunities exist (for those under 15 if they wish). Outreach teams go out to street kids, ask what they need, build relationships, and encourage the value of education.  The participants are never forced but supported to make the decision on their own, but the demand was for opportunities to gain skills for jobs, and so was born the (1)Friends Programs providing vocational skills training, (2) Friends Social Businesses to support the trainings and provide real world application, (3) CYTI Alliance, a coalition of best-practices and lessons learned to collaborate and involve NGO’s in supporting marginalized communities, and finally the (4)Childsafe Network to spread advocacy and include the community in child-safe tourism and business practices. This includes the “Thumbs Up” logo that is featured everywhere from tuktuks, to hotels, police, and even airlines (coming soon).

The Friends Educational and Training Center 

Part III – Experiencing the Vocational Programs

It is one thing to hear about and read about programs, but it is another to experience it first hand. After the meeting, off I went to track down the social businesses and trainings, speak with the beneficiaries, and observe how well their hospitality program REALLY was. I was able to find 2 restaurants, which has now separated to be its own entity (Mith Samlanh) as well as the stores selling the beneficiaries’ products, and a beauty training salon.

Mith Samlanh – Romdeng Restaurant – Social Business and Vocational Training
Romdeng Friends International Product Store – featuring items made by beneficiaries

Vocational Training – Nail and Beauty Salon

Finally, I decided to sit down, relax, and try out the training program of Friends Restaurant. First thing I did was ask a “Teacher” and staff how it worked from their  perspective – and the trainer was VERY well versed. He knew all of the details of the levels of the hospitality program. This trainer was actualy from the local university there to support the program. Another staff with little anglais did not want me to go empty handed even though he could not answer my questions (language barrier) so he brought me a ChildSafe Traverler Tips brochure (in Khmer). It was thoughtful and sincere. Every member of the staff were sincere, focused, and in a state of learning – the highest state I would say to be in life.

The Training Process:
Step 1: preparing food for chilfren in schools (4months training)
Step 2: Training in serving and hospitalitiy in Cambodian restaurants (for locals) (about 10 mths)
Step 3: Move to training/working in Friends-Mith Samlanh Center

And voila… there I was about to sample the cooking and services of Friends International trainees…

Menu, staff, and trainee board (in background) at Friends Restaurant

Getting work done at Friends Restaurant while having a non-alcoholic Passion Fruit chiller, reading the ChildSafe pamphlet, and about to taste the  tuna and egg salad (YUM)

Part IV: Creating Advocates

At the end, I was sold. Not only did I buy gifts and a Friends trainee-created notebook for myself, but I had lunch at the restaurant and visited their training salon. Yes, Charlotte and James were fantastic pitchers of their program. But beyond that (and I am not saying I am a hardened jaded global development specialist)… it takes a lot to get me to buy in. And there need not be any pitching necessary – because the products were quality, they were items I wanted to buy for myself (but I couldn’t be selfish…so I’ll call them gifts and figure out who they’re for later), the food was delicious, and I had better service than at the more expensive restaurants of Phnom Penh.

When I asked James how he would describe the FRIENDSISH image,  he said it is about fun, smiling, and bringing those back into the community from the margins. It is about collaboration (see previous post), and being young at heart. When you learn you feel young again, and being young is not about age.. it is about a state of mind. That is how he viewed friends… and that’s how I experienced it.

For more information: Friends-International

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here





Breaking the cycle of poverty and preserving Cambodian arts -My day with Kasumisou Foundation

My day began bright and early with Juana – from Peru she is the local staff for the Family Support Program, Kasumisou Foundation. On 20 February 2012, over a breakfast of fruit, we discussed  a brief overview of her work and the day’s itinerary. I would be visiting several families benefitting from Kasumisou’s FSP program (those affected by HIV) and then visiting the Apsara Arts Prgoram where youth and orphans can learn traditional Cambodian dance, drawing, and music while not in school and during summers (instead of being on the streets).

The first family lived in a Buddhist Temple Pagoda that looked like this….

After the PolPot regime (Khmer Rouge) Buddhist temples began to welcome Cambodians without homes re-settling back into the city after being scattered among different provinces looking for their lost loved ones and for places to live. (Please Google the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge if you are not familiar.. I was able to visit the “Killing Fields” and the Tuol Sleng Museum, and will share photos in a later posting).

The first family consisted of a young boy, Pirron, affected by HIV and his grandmother who took care of him after his mother passed away due to the virus.  I asked her what her life was like before she was taken in by the Kasumisou foundation – she had been a beggar. Homeless and penniless she took in her grandson after his mother passed and was desperate because he was dying. At a local church they were introduced to Juana and  the Kasumisou foundation, and they were given a small stipend to pay for rent, for food, and education for the young boy. The conditions were she had to stop begging. When I met this family I would have NEVER imagine what they had gone through. She was proud of her grandson’s studies, smiling, and welcoming. I asked what hope she had for her grandson in the future, and she said for him to finish his studies and become a professional. He responded he hoped the same and loved working with electronics and electricity. His favorite subject was math. She now has a home, electricity (no running water yet), and with therapy the boy has lived to the age of 15. She now sells snacks and candy to the local community.

With Pirron, his grandmother, and FSP staff at their home

Now meet these two young girls who not only lost their mother due to HIV but have been constantly affected by it, and were adopted by their mother’s friend. One wanted to be a doctor “to help (listing everyone in her adopted family, the Kasumisou staff, and sponsorship family who is paying for her education) for free of charge” and the younger one followed with wanting to be a nurse “to help all of Cambodia”. One loved to read and the other draw. Her favorite thing to draw was.. Angry Birds! I was astonished and had to see her drawings- they were amazing. I told them how kids in the US also loved Angry Birds! At the end of the visit she gave me her prized angry bird and tom and jerry drawings. They practiced their english with me and showed me some of the dance and song they learned at the Apsara Arts program. These were two sweet and educated young girls with hopes and dreams. I asked Juana what was the likelihood of them receiving education to become doctors.. and she said the hope of Cambodia is for youth to graduate 6th grade, if possible 9th (14 years old). If they are very talented and have the funding then 12th. It is very difficult to attain vocational or university training here. That did not stop these girls from reaching for the stars.

Holding Smile’s Angry Birds Drawings

The final few families ingrained in me the strength of the human spirit. Sampao had been ostracized by her family when her husband died since she had HIV and was separated from her children. She was on her deathbed when Kasumso took her in and instead of accompanying her to die with dignity.. Juana was able to “accompany her to life”. When she never expected to live she now accompanies Juana home-visiting other families affected sharing experience and support. The next family was a mother and son both affected – all you could see was their joy and strength. The mother was able to work since she received therapy and he was a very naturally gifted artist – self taught drawing and painting with beautiful elaborate pictures of whatever he could get his hands on.  The final family’s mother had been blinded by the disease and was supporting her 2 young boys. Kasumisou provided her the opportunity to not have to turn to brothels to make money, but supporting her children through school and allowing her to focus on them.

Sharing fruit with mother and son during home-visit

How does it work? Kasumisou is no longer expanding but maintaining the current families. They support 110 orphans, 70 Family Support Prgoram families with 180 children,  4 in university and 3 in vocational school, and 9 orphans iving at the Apsara Arts Progaram. They provide food support, small stipend for rent/electricity/water, education, therapy whether it be for TB or HIV, and homevisit care- a holistic all-econompassing type of support to  break the cycle of poverty and provide opportunities for these youth otherwise without. The kids stay in the program for as long as they need. With hopes of focusing more on education for their children, their donor-focused funding is trying to find a way to become more sustainable.

The final leg of my site visit involved attending clases at the Apsara Arts Association.. a program for training youth whether oprpahned, poor or rich in traditional Cambodian culture. Kasumisou funds a summer program to allow their beneficiary children to spend their summers not in school learning Cambodian arts and not spend it in the streets. Kasumisou also donated the current training center.


Teaching Assistants performing (right is female dance and left is the male dance)


Please observe the 2nd child… the cutest 3 year old you have ever met

And I even was able to participate… I was dragged on stage even though I repeatedly oh-koon’d (thanked ) and declined but to no avail up I went…and then was guided with clear English 1,2,3’s throughout the entire dance…

Me attempting Cambodian Dance

It was wonderful to experience how those involved did not differentiate by age, race, or religion (some beneficiaries were Buddhist, some Christian, some “attended all temples to receive support and live long lives”) – it was about providing lives with dignity and breaking the cycles of poverty for future Cambodan generations. Although it is frustrating to see the common trend of constant dependency on dwindling donor support.. my hopes are that organizations find self-sustainability. Hopefully, these children will have the opportunity to attain all of their hopes and dreams… and even finish university.

About the staff I met: Juana’s background was in HIV family support in the US and for over a decade here. Sithen’s background is in accounting and business management supporting Kasumisou’s efforts with the Apsara Arts. Slim staff – but skilled, experienced, and dedicated. Sithen even went on to say if he ever has to take another job for some reason he would always be a supporter of and donate to Kasumisou.

To find out more about about Kasumisou Foundation click here. For more information on the Apsara Arts Association click here. The Apsara Arts Association hosts Traditional Cambodian performances on Saturday evenings.

 

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here

My day with Happy Football Cambodia Australia – Homeless World Cup Participants

On Saturday morning, 18 January 2012, I was able to join the Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) for one of their first soccer (football) trainings of the season with Jimmy, Head Coach, Vibol, Country Manager, and Chandara, Coach and Assistant Country Manager. After surmounting a few obstacles to secure a field, including field repairs and a surprise out-of-season rainy downpour the day before, the program pressed on and the season began. HFCA’s team of Cambodian impoverished and orphan youth were able to attend and play in the Homeless World Cup Paris on the Champ de Mars in August 2011. I was able to spend a day with them getting to know some of the youth that went and observing the work of HFCA.

When I arrived, the youth were divided into 4 groups: 16 and up, 14-16, under 14, and the girls. This is because 16 years old is required in order to qualify and play in the Homeless World Cup. The program consists of fitness, basic soccer skills training, scrimmage, and fun. Despite the fact that some of the kids did not have proper soccer gear or even shoes to run in, they were all laughing and running – as if they had no problems or concerns in the world.

Part of the fitness and agility program

The youth come from 5 different orphanages with one driving over 3 hours just to bring their youth to this program on the weekends. Why do they do this? I was told because it is for the kids – it provides opportunity, confidence, and to spend their free time not in the streets but learning a sport and teamwork.

During this time I was able to speak with 2 youth that were able to attend the Homeless World Cup in Paris, and one that went to HWC Melbourne.  What was interesting was that not one spoke about future success and opportunity – they all spoke about how happy they were to meet and play with players from other countries and that the most important thing was to bring their experience back to Cambodians. Here is a clip…

It was inspirational to find out that Vibol, as Country Director and volunteer for HFCA, came from humble beginnings as well – and that’s what brought him to support these youth.  The stories of what motivated everyone to be a part of HFCA was definitely uplifting, and whether it be to share “football” with the kids or stop the cycles of poverty… everyone shared a common goal – to provide opportunity for these kids.

How do they get to go to the Homeless World Cup? HWC subsidized a major portion of the travel costs. HFCA brought 1 player from each orphanage/organization plus the top 3 deserving youth…and off they went. But “it’s not all about the Homeless World Cup, this [the program providing opportunities for these youth] is what’s important. The Homeless World Cup is just icing on the cake,” said the Head Coach, Jimmy.

I spoke with a representative from one of the orphanages (the one that drives so far just to be there). His name was Sokhom and he was with the Cambodia Kids Foundation. He said he was “happy because kids can learn football. It keeps kids from selling things at market”. He also said that 3 of his organization’s youth were able to attend the Homeless World Cups and that they were very happy.

Very happy was a common phrase that day.

The girls’ team: one ran up to me, said hello, asked my name, and proudly proclaimed she wanted to play football when she grew up. Then ran off to play again. They were all full of  laughter and joy.

The Obstacle: Organizations want to send more kids but costs and resources are limited. The HFCA is fighting for self-sustainability, but currently runs on donors, charity-tournaments, and fundraising events. The program can only take care of a certain number of kids and only on Saturday mornings as of now, but the demand for a Sunday program and more kids to participate is growing. The current soccer gear all currently comes from the little budget they have as well as a monthly pick up of donated supplies from local Phnom Penh International Schools.

The next Homeless World Cup 2012 will be in Mexico City. For more information on Homeless World Cup, click here, and on Happy Football Cambodia Australia, click here.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here