The Kingdom of Cambodia is a kingdom of young people with more than half of its population of 13 million under the age of 19. Cambodia however is a nation that is emerging from decades of unprecedented human tragedy, perpetrated by one of its most infamous sons, Pol Pot.
While generally the Khmer people are warm and friendly, anger can sometimes be boiling just below the surface, due to the atrocities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge which ruled the country from 1975-1979. Cambodia is a very rural country with about 85% of the population living in farming areas. Poverty and people needs are wide spread. Children sometimes do not attend school but work or care for their siblings at a very young age.
There are vast gulfs between the rich and poor, with beautiful guarded and walled French villas, standing smugly opposite slum communities where residents can be seen sorting rubbish for their next meal.
Cambodia is a tropical climate, usually hot, humid and dusty. The rainy season buckets down and lasts from June to October. One may need to sometimes wade through flooded waters as the drainage cannot cope with the short but torrential rain.. It pays to carry a water proof poncho.
The dry season is from November to March. The hottest month is May and the coolest is January. Temperatures are fairly consistent around 32C during the day. The Riel is the official currency of Cambodia but most larger transactions use US currency. Riel, while used in markets and shops and to pay the taxi motorbikes, is worthless outside of the country. No coins are used in Cambodia, only notes. The US dollar is acceptable everywhere, with small change given in riel. Very few banks have cash-on-line machines and credit card facilities are limited to the high-end tourist areas. Internet cafes provide international calls and internet services are cheap. The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism and 95% are Buddhist. The remaining 5 to 10 % are either Muslim or Christian. Christianity was stifled during the years that Pol Pot led his reign of terror and slaughtered thousands. Today Cambodia is one of the most open South East Asian Countries. After the years of war and unrest the people are weary and looking for Peace.
Mercy Teams Mission Statement in Cambodia
Inspired by God’s love, MTI (Cambodia) is committed to rebuild strong families in Cambodia for the protection and nurturance of vulnerable children. We can achieve this by promoting and working through safe, responsive and responsible communities.
‘To be salt and light’ amongst the poor, ministering to their suffering and oppression’ by improving the health (physical and mental) vulnerable groups.
1. Project Freedom in Phnom Penh
This project focuses on 5 major areas:
• Child Intervention
• Community Preventive Training
• Intervention Programmes
Target People Group: MTI Cambodia works in Chbar Ampou in the city of Phnom Penh. There are several slum villages in this area, where people survive on minimal resources and money.
Project Freedom Society in Cambodia is traditional. Many parents arrange marriages for their children. Sex before marriage is frowned on and girls who lose their virginity are considered “srey koic” (fallen women). Prostitution although outlawed by the law, is generally tolerated. Brothels can be found in most towns and cities and young Khmer boys may even be introduced to their first experience of sex by being taken to a brothel by a relative or friend. While the Khmer Rouge created a man made catastrophe in the 1970’s the true tragedy today is that there is a legacy of destruction and assault on the most innocent and vulnerable of Cambodia’s people.. its children. What is meant by this?.... Disturbing information by Human Rights organizations and Health Care professionals in Cambodia, indicate that, every day, in cities and provinces throughout the nation, children are being sexually and physically assaulted. Newspaper reports of cases of children and youth being raped in their own homes and villages by neighbors or even family members.
While 50% of Cambodia population is under 18 years the average victim age investigated by one NGO, is 12 years old with the added disturbing statistic that fully one quarter of abused children are under the age of 10 years old . Young girls who survive rape and sexual abuse have to cope with discriminatory attitudes reflected in the Cambodian saying “Men are like gold; women are like white cloth”. Once stained, they can never be fully cleaned. It is not uncommon for young girls who have been raped and trafficked into the sex trade to despair of returning to normal life or marriage and see no other choice but to become voluntary sex workers.
Project Freedom is a Christian response to this epidemic of abuse in Cambodia. Our vision is to reduce the suffering of child victims of abuse by facilitating community-based care. The name Project Freedom reflects MTI’s desire to bring Freedom to Children who are caught up in the snare of sexual or physical abuse :
These are our objectives :
Provide psychological assessment and treatment for the child and family.
Our team of local staff and expatriate mental health professionals work as a team to help children in shelters as well as children who stay in the community. We work in collaboration with other NGOs and groups towards this goal. We desire to see the families strengthened and supported to be the safe care-givers of their children.
Provide psycho-education for healthy self-image, social relationships and problem-solving skills for these children. Children who have survived abuse can learn and acquire these skills for a better future.
Run prevention and awareness-raising training groups in child abuse and family violence to community leaders, villagers, teachers and children in the community.
We desire that Cambodian communities become socially responsible and responsive and value healthy family life and their children.
Core Services in Phnom Penh
* Casework Management Services. A professional service provided by social workers who coordinate services for clients to meet their total needs, in collaboration with various partner organisations.
* Project Freedom Psychotherapeutic services. Provided by a multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals , we aim to help children and families from abusive backgrounds to heal and recover.
* Training & Clinical Supervision Skills development for mental health professionals. Through experienced trainers and practitioners, on-going training and supervision are provided for trainee counselors. Children Outreach
* Safe Children Karaoke Club . This is a prevention program for children to learn about keeping themselves safe through lessons, role-plays, karaoke songs and crafts. It is conducted at local schools and at MTI.
* Back to School “Back to School’ program . This programme works closely with families, schools and community to reintegrate children and youths back into the regular education system who have never been to school or are school dropouts.
* Community First Aid. This is a programme which provides basic first aid to children in the villagers. This also enables MTI to identify any further needs of the children, especially in the areas of child abuse or domestic violence.
* Community Education & Development. MTI works closely with other groups to raise community awareness and civic responsibility in areas of family life education and child abuse prevention programs.
* Community Support Schemes . MTI initiatives (eg. Project Hygiene, Emergency Relief Aid, Crisis Relief) support families who are facing poverty or crisis.
* Information & Referral . This programme provides villagers with information and referral to other groups (e.g. health institutions, NGOs, etc.) when needed.
* Volunteer Development . MTI (Cambodia) encourages both local and international voluntarism by recruiting, deploying and training individuals and groups for different community projects. Recruitment Needs MTI Cambodia invites experienced and trained mental health professionals to join our team of Cambodian staff and expatriate volunteers to serve together.
2. Vocational Training Centre
Mercy Teams International (MTI) has also launched a vocational training centre which trains youth in the following areas:
- General subjects of Math and English
Target People Group: Many of the Khmer urban youth are unemployed due to lack of adequate education to compete for the limited jobs available in Phnom Penh.
MTI Cambodia's vision is to be salt and light to the suffering poor of Cambodia by improving their chance of long-term employment through skills training. To reach this goal, the vocational training centre plans to expand its training to the following areas:
- Repair of little generators, engine driven pumps and agriculture equipment.
3. Kampong Speu Community Project
* Pre-School Education
Three school terms of Khmer language, English language, water safety, personal hygiene, crafts, sports, Christian education and fine motor-skills built into the Kampong Speu Preschool curriculum will be taught, tested, evaluated and reported on. One Parent/Child Party will be scheduled for preschool children per term and include a section on Positive Parenting Practices, Home Economics, Water Safety and Basic First Aid along with games and snacks.
* English Class
English classes are taught after the regular school day to teenage youth. Two teachers share knowledge in English and teach this course as a part of outreach to community youth
* Sewing Project
Four women with four sewing machines producing saleable items which will give both employment and income is the aim of this project.
* Youth Fellowship
On Sunday afternoons, youth from the local community gather for Christian activity and encouragement
4. Family Sponsorship
Each family sponsorship ensures that a needy family is given the opportunity to climb out of an economic, social, financial or spiritual ‘trap’. Because of the social situation of families living in the poorest areas of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, families find themselves in dire need. Schooling is often disrupted and difficult to access. There is therefore a need for basic hygiene, anger management, budgeting and relationship education. MTI provides this opportunity through its Family Sponsorship Programme.
MTI’s work in Phnom Penh slums impacts 50 families directly. The Family Sponsorship Programme gives opportunity to expand this work to families needing educational assistance for one of their children and assistance in a more general way for the whole family. Our social worker will bring professional and practical advice and support through the funding you provide as you sponsor a family.
MTI in Cambodia