I just returned from a grueling weeklong trip to visit most of the home villages of the COP children and teens to meet with their single parents or extended relatives. Last Monday I left with a driver in a ‘M'lup Russey’ vehicle, and an official from the ministry of Social Affairs. M’lup Russey is a Christian Non-Government Organization that has been helping the government with dismantling the existing orphanage system and helping those organization re-integrate children into the families of extended relatives (https://www.facebook.com/Mluprussey.NGO/). They train orphanage directors to do this, and help train children and teens to prepare for re-integration. In each village we met with the village chief, a district official, and a provincial official to assess the situation together.
We traveled to Svay Rieng first thing the Monday morning, and then drove to Memot to meet with Mr. Vitu’s (16) mother who will not take him back. Tuesday around noon we left for K.Cham where we stayed the night. The next day we drove to the outskirts of Kompong Thom City and met with the mother of Srey Oun (17) and her sister Yari (15), who had land in K.Thom but who was very poor, and in not so good mental health. In addition, she had a lot of other children to care for. Thursday we went deep into K.Thom, near Sandan District where the bulk of relatives of COP teens and children live. We travelled over horrendous back roads to reach these villages. It was an exhausting trip all over eastern and central Cambodia and rained very hard on Thursday night. I made it back to Phnom Penh by Friday noon.
It has been determined that the living situation of these 4 COP children above has improved enough whereas they can be reintegrated with their single mothers or extended families. Other COP teens who lived for a long time in an institutional situation are difficult to re-integrate and can be turned back over to COP to finish high school college.
Next week I will travel again with M’lup Russei and the official from the ministry, this time to Pailin, a Cambodian City on the Thai border to find the mother of Mr. Kosal (12) and Miss Malis (10) who is working in a Thai garment factory.
Traveling Upcountry in backwater K.Thom Meeting with Provincial Officials
After all the assessments are done, and according to the government regulations, I will have to do the trip again to personally deliver every COP child or teen back to their relatives, and those that the committee has decreed may return to COP will come back with me. COP is in the process of becoming a Home Stay for those who need to finish high school and college rather than an orphanage, although we will still care orphans or kids in extremely difficult circumstances like Srey Noich, Kosal, Malis, Siomai, Chanta, and Thy, who have no parent or stable relatives to return to.
Center of Peace is one of first of eleven orphanages to work with government toward re-integration. I, as the director of COP, will be part of a task force that will use our experiences as a case study for creating strategy that can be applied to best practices of re-integration, assessment, and the operation of existing orphanages. This puts COP in an excellent position for capacity building training, current information, and longevity.
To comply legally with the government mandate COP will have to spend $1500 out pocket, funds that COP desperately needs for operating expenses. Assessments by M’Lup Russei, PP government, and provincial government officials, by their decision to send most children and teens back to COP, affirm that COP is indeed a good ministry and safe place for children and teens.
Brian and I are moving into COP where Brian will be contributing to rent and utilities costs and we will serve as house parents. This is a sacrifice for both of us, but the children and teens really do need COP.
We are asking you to make a sacrifice in terms of a donation/monthly pledge to enable us to continue to provide a home for children and teens that don’t have one. Please pledge $50-$100/month to keep COP going, or make a one time donation.
If COP closes to due to lack of funding, COP kids will be sent other to institutions that will not be Christian and that will not provide the holistic care that COP gives.
§ Go to “Donate.” Find Brian Maher. Put in $
§ Designate for COP if you want to help COP
If you read this far, thanks so much. See my whirlwind trip below from last Monday to Friday!
Love and Blessings, Bophal