This was another project I’ve spent a lot of time working on during the first couple of months at M’lup Russey (MRO). In 2018, MRO hired a local video producer to create a series of videos highlighting the impact MRO has with orphans and vulnerable children all over Cambodia. When I joined MRO, the videos had just been completed. I spent some time figuring out the history of these videos, what all the acronyms stood for and how to tell a cohesive story with the English captions. We went through an editing process with the video producer. While he was working on the edits, I worked with our IT team at MRO to research our YouTube channel. I found out MRO had two YouTube channels, but only had access to one of them. That was definitely an interesting learning experience talking through technology challenges with the staff. With a little bit of brainstorming, we came up with a solution. Created MRO’s first YouTube playlist and uploaded all these videos and their captions to YouTube during the first few weeks of our daily power cuts! What a feat! Then I drafted an English blog post for the leadership team to review. All that being said, I’m super proud of the work MRO completed in 2018 – and as the blog post says, I can’t wait to see what is accomplished in 2019!
In 2018, M’lup Russey Organization partnered with a local video producer to create a series of impact videos highlighting the work M’lup Russey Organization did in 2018. We were able to get these short films edited and published them on YouTube and Facebook. We are super excited about the work M’lup Russey Organization did in 2018. This video series highlights some of the amazing results M’lup Russey Organization had last year. We can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in 2019.
In Battambang Province, Role Models are committed to their volunteer position, to help the children in their community. They are striving to mobilize friends to join them. Key community members are volunteering as Role Models. Most of the young adults living in residential centers have become alienated from their own biological families and are unable or do not want to return to the villages they came from. When they leave the centers, they will need to live in the city and town communities, where they have few links with people they can trust. M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) recruits ordinary, community people from around the city to be Role Models and mentors for the young people as they prepare to leave the orphanages. These community Role Models are trained in listening skills, child protection, self-awareness and the effects of institutionalization as they form relationships with young people. As the relationships deepen, they are encouraged to meet together regularly. Role Models are also encouraged to offer work experience placements at their family businesses. They have taken the initiative to map out their own resources, to help their own community, orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and the poor. By raising support from community people, some of the young people have been supported with cash and some with study materials. As a result of one joint training session, between Role Models and Community Support Group, one local man took action, to be reunited with his own children through reintegration. After communicating to local authorities and Residential Care Institution (RCI) Directors. He was successful! He has now become a Role Model, helping many of his fellow villagers.
The Consultant Team visited Battambang. There a local church shelter has become the gathering place for educational activities. The head of a Community Support Group (CSG), Mr. Roeung Thom, replicated his experience in dealing with the issues of community children. The contributions are leading to many positive outcomes. The school dropout rate of children in Takream Commune has improved. In 2018, the dropout rate has been significantly reduced. There is no more child labor exploitation in the village. No more child violation. Child safety, child rights, and hygiene have all improved. The Community Support Group (CSG) also confirmed that many villagers have committed to re-enroll their children into school, and they possess a better understanding of the value of childcare and child education. More Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families are recruited. Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) are well documented. Community Role Models are organized to give support to the unmotivated children in school. The Community Support Group (CSG) works with the local authorities to promote civil registration for every child. School-aged children are identified and encouraged to enroll in school. The Community Support Group (CSG) is very active in public dissemination and community awareness sessions. In addition to all this, donations and support are truly reaching the poor. A US charity is also supporting the village because the Community Support Group (CSG) and the local authority understand all the factors that may affect children. The holistic approach of the Community Support Group members is creating real change.
The Consultant Team headed to Kandal, to meet with an Emergency Foster Care Family. Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families have opened their homes and their hearts to receive orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in crisis situations. This is a huge outcome to see. It is important that Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families have such big hearts to foster children from difficult situations. Although they went through the necessary recruitment process and met the selection criteria, the most important characteristic is the ability to be sympathetic with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). They know that the children they are going to foster are traumatized children with complex needs who come from difficult situations. Some have histories of abuse or have difficult behaviors or poor health. Although this could affect the foster family’s biological family, they are still able to cope with it very well and want to be good Foster Parents. With the training they have received from M’lup Russey Organization (MRO), they have learned to teach children to recognize their own value, stand strong for their own future, their community and society. Foster Parents have accepted children from any situation, without discrimination. They also share how to take good care of others, including their neighbors and the elderly in the community. With ongoing support provided by M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) Social Work Team, the Foster Parents believe that they can do a great job looking after their Foster Children. The Foster Parents receive a small financial benefit and are regularly supplied with materials to help them care for the children well, and there is a continued emphasis on training and development. They are also regularly visited by the Social Work Team and have close and respectful relationships, and these are all things that they consider as motivation to perform their role as Foster Parents even better!
The Consultant Team met with Careleavers for a focus group discussion. Careleavers are those youth who previously lived in a Residential Care Institution (RCI). The purpose of the Careleaver Support Network is to link the youth into the network after they leave from the orphanages to live in the community. The Careleaver Support Network supports the Careleavers and our hope is to see them have safety, freedom, and knowledge that can improve their independent lives in the community. M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) also supports their mental health and emotional wellbeing. There are also some activities supporting and developing the capacity of the members of the Careleaver Support Network after they reunify with their community. The Team found that in 2017, 119 Careleavers who had left the RCI had a better experience living independently after linking with the network. They improved their living conditions step by step, by staying in contact with the Residential Care Institutions (RCI) and acting as a resource for children still there. They provided feedback to the younger generation and shared their experiences of transition. This wasn’t just to the children in the Residential Care Institutions (RCI). They took their experiences and feedback and shared with orphans and vulnerable children who lived in their new community. Life experience sharing is an important strategy that helps to prepare youth at the Residential Care Institutions (RCI) for reintegration into their families and society, prepares them for independence when they leave. It also helps children in the community understand the difficulties faced by children living in residential care. Even though the Careleavers had had to leave the orphanages for a variety of reasons, including dismissal or aging out, being asked to leave or facing conflict within the Residential Care Institution (RCI), yet they were still willing to share their experiences. This is a great flow of support from those who know clearly about the issues facing young people in transition to life in the community after institutionalization. It was agreed by the youth that M’lup Russey Organization’s (MRO) Youth Support Sector played a catalyst role in this outcome.
The Consultant Team headed to meet with an Emergency Foster Care Family. M’lup Russey Organization’s (MRO) Social Work Team worked with other relevant partners to discuss and find solutions to improve the overall service of foster care provision throughout Cambodia. As a result of the meetings, psychological support to foster families has been useful for the families in keeping them emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically calm and free of tension from taking care of the foster children. Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families understand that physical punishment is not a good option, as it is widely perceived to be in Cambodia. Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families also understand the individual differences of the children and accept these differences. This thinking and behavior, along with the collaboration between M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) and relevant partners, is applied within all Emergency Foster Care (EFC) families. The children have been getting the best service from their M’lup Russey Organization’s Emergency Foster Care Families. This successful M’lup Russey Organization’s Emergency Foster Care model and practices have been shared out and is known by other partners and authorities that are choosing to follow this model.
The Evaluation Team met with an Emergency Foster Care Family in Kandal Province. The Emergency Foster Care (EFC) Families do not only give care and a safe environment, they teach the children to be good people – but to do this the parents have to be good parents and good people too! In 2018, Emergency Foster Care (EFC) Families across target areas rated themselves as good citizens. Emergency Foster Care (EFC) Families in Kandal informed our Evaluator that they lived their life in a very careful way. They lived well, behaved well with honorable characteristics. They believe that how they act affects the children, so they have to do everything in good ways. They feel that they gained benefits from M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) and the Social Work Team by gaining new knowledge, respect, and understanding of parenting skills, the rights of children, prevention of child exploitation and child protection, proper childcare, parenting skills, and other necessary and important skills. This unexpected outcome is a real testament to the effectiveness of the M’lup Russey Organization’s Emergency Foster Care program.
The Consultant Team met with Community Youth from Battambang Province. Following community awareness by M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) Community Support Sector Staff, M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) wants to see key community members model practical application of alternative care policy in order to support the proper reintegration of children and youth out of orphanages. Using careful action-reflection processes at the higher levels of participation, the community take the initiative to control their own stability and security. Family and community is the priority environment for providing the best holistic development for children. It is much better for them than living in the orphanage. A number of outcomes were discussed. Community awareness played a key role in building community consciousness and knowledge about child protection and childcare. It is important that community youth understand their own rights, including protection, care and how to protect themselves from risk and vulnerable situations. They now know how to hold consultations on issues of concern. The community youth voluntarily organized themselves into a youth club and a Child Safety Network. Through youth club activities, M’lup Russey seeks to enhance youth’s abilities by training them on how to be good leaders, facilitators, and responsible people. We help them improve their communication skills, work skills, and soft skills. We also empower young people to have a voice in their communities, to find freedom of expression and to prepare for independence. Some of the other benefits when they are involved in the youth clubs are that they have an opportunity to get vocational training, three months working experience in M’lup Russey Organization (MRO); opportunity to join the Role Model Program which helps them to find a person who could listen to them, to share the experience of living in the community and motivation to reach their goal; to understand the purpose of child protection, development; and the promotion of child rights. They also visit and take note of children’s issues in their communities. They are courageous to provide intervention when cases of child abuse occur.
The Consultant Team visited Battambang, for a focus group discussion with Commune Support Group Members. They found that in 2017–2018, community members changed their practice of family care for children. They paid more attention to their children, making sure they were attending school. As a result of this school enrollment of children in that community has risen. A great outcome! The Commune Support Group (CSG) and the Child Safety Network agreed that they now have a better understanding of the value of childcare and education. This knowledge leads to a significant reduction in violence against children and child labor exploitation, which they now monitor very closely.
The Consultant Team headed to Pursat to meet with Community Support Group members for a focus group discussion in Makak Village. They discussed many outcomes, but one unintended outcome was very interesting. Members stated that domestic violence had been reduced from 40% in 2015 to 10% in 2017. This reduction of domestic violence created a comfortable family care environment for children and their families within their community. It gave children a natural and beautiful family lifestyle. Regular awareness sessions were delivered on child rights, domestic violence, health, sanitation, and hygiene. Community members experienced a change, transforming them into non-violent minded individuals. With ongoing support from Community Support Group (CSG) members, continued community training and awareness sessions, we hope that key members of each community will continue to solve their own challenges.
Pursat Town Director of Child Welfare & the Commune Woman and Children Committee (CWCC) had an outcome harvesting focus group discussion. In 2018, CWCC in both Pursat and Battambang gave a high appreciation to the support of M’lup Russey Organization (MRO). “Without MRO, we would not have become who we are today.” “We paid attention to every child in our communes.” The knowledge they gained from M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) made them change behaviors and practices towards children. Vulnerable children have received interventions by Commune Woman and Children Committee (CWCC) with the proper reintegration process. Commune Woman and Children Committee (CWCC) advocated for the basic needs of children: food, school materials, and school uniforms. They no longer look at neglect as a private issue and consider care of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) as an issue of the community. Training provided by M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) has helped Commune Woman and Children Committee (CWCC) to have a better understanding of policies, knowledge on how to fill out the forms of alternative care, how to identify orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and how to manage the children’s needs. This application of knowledge is changing lives and whole communities.
The Consulting Team met with representatives of Residential Care Institutions (RCI) in the Battambang Province. During 2017-2018 a group network for better interaction and knowledge sharing was formed. This pilot focus was a result of M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Support (MoSVY) agreeing to work with the Residential Care Institutions (RCI) across Cambodia. With that endorsement, Residential Care Institutions (RCI) were organized in Battambang to be equipped with child protection skills, childcare standards and the application of the accepted best practice process of alternative care, as well as preparation to transform to be community-based care institutions. M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) supported Residential Care Institutions (RCI) in transforming from center-based care to community-based care. They are then linked together as a supported network, with ongoing training and field visits. Residential Care Institutions (RCI) Directors who’ve transitioned to community-based care, show they can work very well together as a network, work to achieve better residential care and know that a collective competence is only achieved through collaboration.
The Consultant Team met with the Municipal Office of Social Affairs, where they held a focus group discussion with the Director of Child Welfare and members of the Woman and Children Consultancy Committee (CWCC). M’lup Russey Organization (MRO) provided Community Budget Plan Training and orphan and vulnerable children (OVC) Data Collection Training. Following this training, authorities at the national level have shared their best practices working with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and data management for sub-national authorities to implement and to strengthen the collection of data about orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Data is collected using a tablet device by way of an online application. Authorities at the sub-national level used the guidelines to make budget plans. The budget plans were used for vulnerable children and the authorities are now active in collecting data about orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and reporting. This is a great step forward!
One more thing to add, Sarah Chhin, M’lup Russey Organization’s Country Director wrote a little recap of (almost) everything MRO accomplished in 2018. I was only at MRO for two months in 2018, but it was so cool to witness the team working together making these goals a reality. Here is the list she created:
- Trained 70 Orphanage Directors in two provinces.
- Supported 25 orphanages in two provinces to transition towards caring for children in the community.
- Trained and supported 89 Careleavers in four provinces.
- Trained and supported 501 youth living in 25 orphanages in four provinces.
- Provided Social Work services to 95 vulnerable children and their families.
- Cared for 34 vulnerable children in 10 Emergency Foster Care families.
- Helped local authorities provide support to 127 vulnerable children.
- Trained 350 local authority officials in eight provinces.
- Provided technical support of case management for 27 local authority officials in nine provinces.
- Trained 160 NGO staff members.
- Trained 80 community people to be mentors for young people living in orphanages.
- Supported 50 young people living in orphanages with mentors.
- Trained 39 community people to be mentors to vulnerable youth in their communities.
- Supported 19 vulnerable youth in communities with a mentor.
- Trained and supported 102 key community members in 10 villages in three provinces.
- Trained and supported 38 members of three Youth Peer Action Groups in three villages in three provinces.
- Helped 10 churches in one province to support their local communities.
- Helped 13 Community Support Groups in three provinces provide training and support to 462 members of their community.
Again, I can’t wait to see what MRO can accomplish in 2019!