Many of our supporters will have seen our announcement back in March about our new partnership in Cambodia which for the first time spreads our work in South-East Asia out of Thailand into one of its neighbours. Our partnership with CCPCR is an exciting one and, as Project Coordinator here in Phnom Penh, I wanted to take this opportunity to give you, our supporters, a feel for the project in order to give you further insights into how vital this initiative is.
I’ve been located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, since November of last year. Around about that time, I was able to meet up with Iona and Tom to discuss the plans for the forthcoming year. Among the ideas discussed at that time was the prospect of TBF taking on a project in Cambodia, should a suitable opportunity arise.
Since that time, as well as performing fundraising and advocacy duties remotely for The Branch Foundation, I have also taken on a local position with Village Focus International (VFI) – an international NGO working in the region.
This role has enabled me to gain a working understanding of the key issues and day-to-day realities of the development context here in Cambodia, a country that continues to struggle over 30 years since the end of the 1975-1979 genocide overseen by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge government.
Today, among a host of challenges, low level of educational attainment remains a huge one*. Gender disparity is also significant challenge in the country, with women and girls traditionally playing subordinate roles to men, denied opportunities to better themselves, and, worse still, subjected to abuse. One key issue within this focus is human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery where young people (mostly women) are lured, sold or abducted into situations where they must work or provide sex**.
Among VFI’s implementing partners in Cambodia is CCPCR, a local NGO established in 1994 with a mission to eliminate violence against children and youth for the betterment of society as a whole. The project that the organisations collaborate on is a Phnom Penh rehabilitation shelter, which helps girl survivors of abuse and human trafficking to recover from their traumas and live secure and rewarding lives.
It became clear to me early on that in CCPCR there was a genuine local NGO doing great things with its Phnom Penh project. Yet the realisation that the organisation was an ideal partner only became clear when the day-to-day funding challenges of it were brought into sharp focus. Despite being in operation for around 15 years, the future of the shelter is insecure; a consequence of the ongoing challenge local organisations like CCPCR continue to experience in obtaining reliable and long-term funding from mainstream donors. Earlier this year, this context was having a very real impact on the lives of the girls at the shelter as key staff members were being left unpaid and essential teaching activities were dramatically reduced.
With an awareness of the above context as well as trust in CCPCR’s competency and integrity, The Branch Foundation began to consider the shelter as an option for our first foray into Cambodian development projects. The next logical step was for me to pay it a visit in order to investigate matters further, which I did in early February 2012.
Upon arrival I was struck by how lovingly cared-for the shelter was, noting a small playground and vegetable patch in the yard area, as well as a renovated outhouse featuring a handful of sewing machines serving as a vocational skills classroom. The Director, Mr. Nget Thy, was humble, kind and thoughtful, and I very much enjoyed hearing about his 10 year involvement with the organisation, as well as his realistic but ambitious plans for the future – developing an on-site library, for example. Meanwhile, the girls were clearly flourishing in the engaging and caring environment that they had now found themselves in – flashing their inspirational smiles and testing out their English on their delighted guests before sensibly taking their seats to partake in some in-house vocational IT studies.
Through discussions and studying of project documentation one of the most pressing concerns that TBF was drawn to was the need for the 28 school-age girls living at the shelter to continue to receive a proper school education. Consequently, our GlobalGiving project was born; contributing to a vital plank of the girls’ rehabilitation and reintegration by working to sustain the development of skills, confidence and emotional strength in a stable and friendly environment. Our intention is simple but powerful: giving 28 children a real chance to overcome their traumas and live stable, rewarding and happy lives.
Through our collaboration with CCPCR, The Branch Foundation are continuing our mission to assist some of the most vulnerable in the world at times when need is greatest and in ways that place faith in the abilities of local communities. As Project Coordinator here in Cambodia, I plan to keep you all informed of the progress that the girls are making in their respective rehabilitations. Together we can all feel proud of what we are achieving.
For more information, please visit our GlobalGiving project page. Please note: if you are interested in donating, please do consider doing so on Bonus Day: June 13th – where donations will be matched by 30-50% up to the value of $1,000. Last but by no means least, if you have any queries or would like to discuss anything to do with this project, please feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Only 53% of children completing grades 1-6 at school and one quarter of the population remaining illiterate – rising to around 35% for girls.
** ECPAT Cambodia reports that as many as 30% of trafficking victims in prostitution are children.
Note: The Branch Foundation pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of its beneficiaries. To protect the identity of our clients on this project, names have been changed and pictures do not necessarily represent girls who have been abused or trafficked.