On March 10th the government of Cambodia closed schools nationwide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our project was closed for 5 weeks, during which time staff, parents, and children stayed largely at home. On April 20th the staff were able to return to work partially, and we set out into the communities of our families.
In a city whose industry relies very heavily on tourism to Angkor Wat, we were not surprised to find many families in desperate need: Street sellers, often selling food in front of schools, are unable to receive any income at all. Tuk-tuk drivers and those employed by the hotel/restaurant industry are struggling to provide for their families. Our focus now has to be on alleviating the present suffering, so our social workers are working hard alongside local authorities to see that no one is left behind.
How To Function?
Our staff are currently coming in on a small-group basis for basic tasks on our property. Teachers come on Fridays to prepare home lessons for the kids and to collect their homework. Social workers are connecting with families in the community to address the great material need that has invaded our city. Each family we serve has been given a gift bag full of food; our rice sponsorship program continues as normal, providing 21 families with a few kilos of rice every week.
Joblessness and its Collaterals
A number of families are unable to pay their rent at the moment and this translates to more evictions, more pressure on children to help generate income, and more absentee parents. Some are out the whole day, not daring to return to their house for fear of being found by debt collectors. Our social workers have met directly with the landlords of 40 of our families in order to pay their rent or part of their rent.
We Need Wisdom
What is the most helpful way for us to respond to this crisis? What are our limitations in the face of this great need? How can we encourage people towards a healthy interdependence? How can we juggle obeying government rules, keeping our staff healthy, and continuing to serve the people who need it the most?
You Can Help
If you would like to join hands with us to help alleviate the suffering of many poor people in Siem Reap please use the accompanying donate button to contribute. Thank you.