On the 15th of January, our First Hand Members joined the yearly kick-off meeting with our Cambodian partner Damnok Toek (DT). It was a fantastic opportunity to gain insights about the work of the organization in these challenging covid 19 times and how they use the money we transferred from our charity event “A Heart for Cambodia” in November 2020.
Damnok Toek’s Purpose
The 3 representatives from DT first introduced the organization for our new members. They explained that DT is a local NGO founded in 1997 which serves the most marginalized and at risk children and youth in Cambodia. It enables vulnerable children to have all of their basic needs met and their rights respected. Therefore, they focus on children who are victims of trafficking, street working or street living, physical or intellectual disabilities, and any kind of exploitation or abuse.
DT takes care of around 3,500 marginalised children each year in the cities of Phnom Penh, Poipet and Neak Loeung. In Poipet, on the border with Thailand, DT runs various drop-in centres in which approximately 750 children, who live and work on the street, find refuge. Most of those kids keep themselves and their families afloat – by carrying heavy loads, collecting waste, as beggars or, in the worst case, as child prostitutes. In the drop-in centres, the children can recover from the strains of their work. They are given a hot meal and can have a shower. Thanks to DT they have a chance to access safe shelter care, medical care, counselling and education.
In Phnom Penh, DT opened a centre for children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities in 2003. These children are often abandoned by their parents. As there was no service for younger adults with disabilities, DT opened a social farm KEP in 2017 to educate them in basic farming and give them access to employment and sustainability.
Effects of Covid 19
During these challenging times of Covid 19, DT could go on with their centre for disabled children and the KEP. The drop in centres and the residential shelters had to close. To ensure that the registered children had their basic needs covered and stayed in a safe environment, teachers and staff of DT had to visit each child at their home and check on them. Teachers on motorcycles were driving during lockdown through the narrow and unpaved paths reaching out to hundreds of children between the ages of 6 and 15 living in the simple shelters and homes trying to go on with their education. The drop in centres are the anchor for the children and their families as they have access to electricity and clean water. Teaching is delivered in open spaces. Families and children are offered support.
Long Term Support
Many of our First Hand members were curious if DT is offering support to the kids over 15 years old to enable them to have a sustainable future. DT could reassure us that they particularly support them after school to find a job in a local business. Most boys get into mechanics and a lot of the girls become a hairdresser or find a work place in beauty, some get a chance to work in hospitality and there are some kids who are able to move on to college.
We had a very enriching and eye-opening discussion and hope very much that we can travel soon to visit them in person. Donations they are always looking for are any technical devices. Let’s hope and see what the future has to offer and how we can serve them in the most useful and powerful way.
We agreed to keep in touch more often and to share stories from the personal development of the children and young adults. We plan to exchange ideas and give feedback on how our donation can make a difference to the children.