On the morning of June 23, our facility manager Ruth attended a meeting hosted by M’lup Russey Organization, an NGO that works in the area of child and family support. The event, held at Culture Coffee in the Russian Market area of Phnom Penh, brought together 15 local NGOs that share the same overall goal – improving child welfare in Cambodia. The attendees represented charities big and small, including our neighbours Sunrise Cambodia, the Krousar Thmey Foundation, and the Cambodian Children’s Fund, with whom we have collaborated in the past.
Titled ‘Establishment of Alternative Care for Children’, the mini-conference was about strengthening the network of organizations that work in child care and education in Cambodia, and collaborating in the provision of alternative care for destitute children. A key part of the proceedings was for all representatives to share their experiences in offering sustainable child support services, so Ruth, like other participants, gave a short presentation on Little Hearts, its vision and mission, and its daily operations.
She highlighted the fact that Little Hearts is much more than a residential facility for abandoned children – it strives to be a genuine home where children live like brothers and sisters and enjoy a happy childhood, a loving and caring family environment, a thorough education up to university level, healthy nutrition, and where they can gain the confidence to become independent adults when they move on. And she did not forget to mention the many outreach programs we operate, such as support to poor families in our district and free English classes for local children.
‘It was so wonderful to get to know people who are working in the same area as us and who share the same vision and dreams,’ says Ruth. ‘We might have different programs and different ways of running our NGOs, but fundamentally we care about the same thing: helping kids who are alone and suffering, and building a better future for them. We’re doing this work for our community and for our country.’
Some organizations also described their program activities in greater detail and shared fundraising techniques. They also spoke about some of the problems they are facing and engaged the audience in discussions on how to overcome them.
‘I learned a lot from the meeting,’ continues Ruth. ‘Now that we’re all aware of each other’s work, we can learn from each other. In fact, we already set up an informal NGO network by creating a Telegram group with around 70 members in Phnom Penh and the provinces. If we have any problems, we can contact the group and ask for advice and help. We also share the latest information from the government and other sources that is relevant to our work. This is really important so we keep each other updated. In the end, we had lunch together to help cement a close relationship with each other.’
And how did the meeting make you feel, Ruth? ‘I felt so happy and proud to talk about Little Hearts and our programs in front of this group,’ she beams. ‘I know Little Hearts provides the best standard in child care. But knowing that myself is not enough. I want everyone to know about it too!’