A Safe Environment in Times of Great Insecurity
In times of insecurity and despair, Bridge of Hope is creating a safe environment for children to come to, and make memories that might carry them through difficult times in their lives. ( Jun Kim, project director of Bridge of Hope)
Closed Due to COVID-19
WHEN the Cambodian government announced in March 2020 that all schools were to be closed, it also affected the work that Bridge of Hope (BOH) is doing among the poorest of the poor in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our beneficiaries are living under the poverty line of $1.71 per day per person. They often make their living through selling homemade cakes, collecting recyclable rubbish or as workers in the tourism sector.
Their income is not enough to be able to send their children to school. Instead, their young ones need to help create income or watch their younger siblings while their caregivers (parents or sometimes grandparents, aunts and uncles etc) are working. BOH offers grades one and two teaching to these children on our compound and then integration into the government school from grade three onwards.
We then support them with catchup lessons half-a-day-a week for one year. While the children learn with us, our social workers offer counselling, guidance, advice and practical support to the caregivers in the various struggles they are facing.
Through COVID-19 our 55 families were badly impacted. Many of them had very low or no income at all due to people staying home and the tourism sector shutting down. We saw how our families struggled to find something to eat, to pay their rent and put hygiene standards in place.
Community Drop-in Centre
That was the starting point for us; while our school remains closed, our compound is open as a drop-in centre, where the children can come every day to eat a nutritious meal, shower and to pick up school lessons to do at home. We also started to hand out monthly food packages to our families to support their living. Hygiene standards were kept high in order to protect the health of our beneficiaries as well as our staff.
It is not clear when schools in Cambodia reopen. Until then we will continue to put all our effort into creating a space where our beneficiaries can experience security and hope in times of great despair. (Danilo Gross)