After a swift lockdown following a community outbreak of Covid 19, schools have been allowed to reopen again this week (with safety measures in place). Our students were quick to turn back up, eager to learn and play. As they have missed so much schooling this year (along with children all around the world) the extra help we give them here will be all the more important going forward. It is amazing to have them back again and the center full of the chatter and cheer that they bring. That said, some of their classroom etiquette has gone slightly awry after so long away from the school structure, so we will be doing lots of activities to work out frustrations and allow the children to remember how to express themselves again!
Category Archives: 2020
All of us here at the center would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Sadly the center has been forced to temporarily close again (from last week) due to a new outbreak of Covid here in Cambodia. The government have been swift to shut things down and seem to have it under control. We are hoping we should be up and running again soon but will have to delay the annual Christmas party for a while (we hope everyone will still enjoy carols and Christmas dances later in the year as they are well rehearsed!).
This year has been a difficult one for everyone we look toward 2021 and trust that it will bring more luck and happiness to us all!
While our staff are already fantastic, it is always important to learn new skills and techniques. Something that has always been close to our hearts at Goodwill is the belief in running a center that caters for the students emotions, as well as their education.
Many of our students come from difficult backgrounds. Neglect is especially common, but often is a result of parents/families need to be away from home for long hours to try and find income for the family to live, rather than a lack of care. The stress that is brought on from living on the poverty line also often results in an increase of domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Understanding that our students often have problems resulting from these issues and finding ways to help them cope is a very important part of our work.
With this in mind last week we joined Bright Minds Asia for some training in Child Psychology and Behaviour Therapy. They discussed different types of abuse and trauma that children can suffer, how this can affect a child, key signs and behaviours to look out for and methods to help children feel safe and supported. We also looked at some key behavioural issues and therapy techniques to help children be in control of their emotions, understand their relevance and how to express them.
The following day we got to have a nice time exploring Phnom Penh and treating ourselves with a bit of a team building after a few very stressful months. After all, a teachers mental and emotional health is very important too!
We are finally getting back on our feet after the Covid shutdown, with children through our doors again. We started slowly with just a few students per day, following the Ministry of Health safety measures carefully, conducting temperature checks, hand sanitizing, disinfecting surfaces and social distancing with limited numbers of students per class.
Working with the Ministry of Social Affairs we have now been given permission to open fully (still following strict safety measures), meaning our centre is once again full of smiles (and lots of noise).
Many new families have moved into are area in the meantime, so we have been introducing them to our services and look forward to seeing them at the center more often from now on.
Cambodia continues to do well in the battle against Corona, keeping its infection rates very low. Schools are slowly being granted permission to open but with many restrictions in place which are unfeasible for our center due to space and resources. However we have been working with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Welfare who have now granted us permission to open with 40 children in attendance. These students will come from our most at risk families and will start back at the center following the Pchum Ben holidays. In the mean time we have been having a few students in at the center each day for check ups and some support and continuing to supply food drops to families in the area.
It has been lovely seeing some of our students faces again and having a catch up. While Sihanoukville is a transient town meaning we have a constant flow of changing students, there are also many families that have been in our area for years and using our services since the beginning. We recently had a look back through our photos so they could see how they have grown.
While schools remain closed the centers staff still have many things to do. Our main priory has been remaining present as a point of contact for any families in need. We have cemented this with extra food drops in the area, along with the provision of soaps, hand sanitisers, masks and most importantly advice.
Many families are already feeling the economic strain of this Covid crisis with livelihoods badly damaged in the tourism industry (beach sellers, moto drivers), the manufacturing industry (shipping/transport of goods) and the construction industry (building sites closed) along with many others. Sadly, it also seems likely that on the economic side, this crisis will still get worse before it gets better and many that were struggling before will find themselves in increasingly desperate situations We are talking closely to our families that have been affected and trying to find practical solutions to help them at this time.
We have also done lots of group (online) training, covering topics including online safety, project based learning, creative thinking, classroom management, child rights and youth empowerment. The staff have been brilliant and thought of lots of ways they can put what they have learned into their teachings. We are desperate for schools to open so we can try them out!
Aside from this we have spent the time doing some much needed maintenance and deep cleaning of the center, along with making a few new plant and vegetable patches, ready to be used in an environmental project with the students when they return.
Whether you are celebrating Khmer New Year here or Easter in other areas this week, it’s likely very different to the ones we are accustomed to.
In an effort to avoid further spread of the virus the PM has postponed the Khmer New Year holiday in Cambodia, and banned the movement of people between provinces. KNY is traditionally a time when families all gather together in their home states, often in more rural areas, and with a higher population of older people. The annual migration of people at this time had the potential to be catastrophic for the spread of the virus (especially into more vulnerable groups), so the prohibition of it seems a very good idea. Whether it is strictly adhered to will remain to be seen.
In Cambodia in general the recorded number of cases remains relatively low, but it is hard to estimate its true extent due to various factors, such as lack of testing and lack of access to medical facilities. Most tourist businesses, hotels, bars, restaurants are either closed or running at low capacity. Masks are worn by the majority of people and hand sanitizer and temperature checks are common on entering public buildings. Schools are closed and people are advised to stay home where possible but we have not yet seen a full lock down.
At this time the biggest challenges will be faced by the poorer communities, such as the one we serve. The concept of social distancing is near impossible when you share a one room shack with your entire family and barely a foot away are your neighbors. The practice of good hygiene is hindered by no access to running water in your own home and advice to try to stay home is impossible to follow when the alternative of not working is to not feed your family! We must hope the measures in place prove strong enough to prevent the catastrophic damage being seen in other countries at this time. We will continue to work with the community, providing food drops and advice where needed.
While access to the wider world is not possible at the moment I thought I would include a few pictures from some of our group outings from this year to brighten the spirits. As always are thoughts and wishes are with all of you!
As the Corona-virus pandemic worsens the Cambodian government have decided to close schools and organisations in an effort to limit transitions. Before closing we talked all our students through the situation, explaining about the virus; its symptoms, how it is transmitted, the importance of regular hand washing and actions to take if they or a family member becomes ill. We made sure not to impose unnecessary worry while ensuring they understood the need to be conscious of the spread and possible severity of the virus, sending them all home with soaps to use.
The center will remain a port of contact for any families in need of help or assistance and continue to carry out food drops. These will be even more important now that many businesses and jobs are closing or disappearing due to Covid-19 protocols, meaning many families will find themselves in desperate situations. We send our love to everyone and hope for a speedy end to these difficult times.
With limited water in most of our students homes, maintaining hygiene can be difficult. One of the biggest recurring problems is head-lice, which are especially difficult to get rid of in families here as they often share very limited sleeping spaces, meaning the lice can easily spread. We try to do regular checks and medicated shampoos to help control them. Head-lice are so common in Cambodia they are not considered something to be shy about, so everyone gets involved in the hunt for them. We also teach about the importance of hand washing, teeth brushing, and personal hygiene during these sessions, and make sure the students have access to washing facilities whenever needed.