Emergency Aid needed for the poorest communities of Phnom Penh.

A social project for child sponsorship has been underway in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The institution of Doctor Christophe Mérieux at the University Support Centre has led local community members to develop a new, more concrete form of aid to help the poorest families in the communities. A complimentary initiative for child sponsorship is like an outstretched hand for the most vulnerable.

Overview with Camille Dugas, a Children of the Mekong volunteer in charge of this project.

The Mother-Child Project : Emergency Aid

child smiling, happy, field, boy

Krol Kho, a slum on the border of the Mekong River at Phnom Penh, resembles many other slums in Asia. A few precarious houses of planks and tin on the edge of a dusty road are home to diligent schoolchildren, sponsored by the educational charity “Children of the Mekong (COTM)” since 2014.

“Since 2018, we have had the chance to intensify our action thanks to the Mother-Child project run by the Mérieux Foundation”,

explains Camille Dugas, a Children of the Mekong volunteer who is responsible for this new project. The programme is being deployed in three slums, from Phnom Penh to places around Sisophon, in the North of the country. “We can distribute powdered milk, feed families that have been plunged into great misery and who still do not have children sponsored by COTM. We also can repair or construct houses for these families.”

Support through training

A Karen HouseAs always with Children of the Mekong projects, hands-on assistance will be incorporated into the training for parents, ultimately allowing them to develop new competencies and support them on their journey to autonomy.

“This training, for a start, is to help them become more responsible and to learn how to manage their modest income by limiting their debts”, explains Camille as she arrives near a house from which the cries of a newborn escape.

Camille introduces us to Sreynech. The mother has just given birth to their fifth child, though none are old enough to go to school. As such, the family cannot benefit from child sponsorship. Their situation remains highly precarious. “Their house is very old, and only the children can go upstairs because their parquet is close to collapse. We bring them rice and hygiene products for her newborn girl.” In this slum, sometimes the mothers have AIDS or are in prison; these situations are critical for the families. The Mother-Child programme, run by the Centre Doctor, Christophe Mérieux, supports sixty women by distributing the powdered milk they need for their children.

Sandap's story

For Sandap, who lives a little further out, help from the Mother-Child project has permitted her to come face-to-face with an urgent situation. “Her house would not have held up against the next flood” explains Camille who chose to pay for the reconstruction of a more solid infrastructure. This help has given parents a new lease of life and inspired new projects. Underneath their new house, the mother installed chicken coops and bricked a little roadside restaurant that all of the quarter profits from. Meanwhile, the father participated in Karol and Setha’s training for responsible parenting. He will soon begin helping on a new project: the reconstruction of his neighbours’ houses.

“We are committed to recognising the dignity of these parents as they journey from being a ‘person in need’ to ‘one that can help those in need.”

enthuses Camille. Equally, financial management training was offered to the father of the family. He will be able to study and develop his skills further.

Sponsorship

“The deployment of this project in our programmes offers the opportunity of new connections and to re-establish the link between Children on the Mekong volunteers and child sponsorship. The other day, we met a mother whose son was ten years old. He had never attended school and did not know how to read. Thanks to the Mother-Child programme, every Sunday, he benefits from courses provided by the students of the institution of Doctor Christophe Mérieux.”

As soon as he can read and regularly begins attending school, Children of the Mekong have committed to finding him a sponsor. This is a very reliable way of reaching out to the most vulnerable children, wherever they might be. “The methods of using aid and training help us get certain families out of critical situations are effective.” Once aid has been given, we then continue to support the education of their children through sponsorships, concludes Camille with a smile.

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