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Minding the kids


Trained staff look after the children of busy parents at the Happy Kid Care Centre in Phnom Penh.

Day-care centers are becoming an increasingly popular child care option for dual-income families among the capital’s growing middle class.

Khem Sokha, management coordinator of the Happy Kid Care Center in Phnom Penh, said, “We decided to establish the center because we have realized that most parents don’t have enough time to stay at home to take care of their kids.”

“Even though I have a maid at my house, I don’t trust her to look after my son because she has a lot of work to do, and I think she will yell at my son when he cries,” said Chhim Sochenda, the mother of a three-year-old boy.

“The Kid Care Center has trained caregivers,” she said. “I have sent my son to the center for about two months, and I think that they are able to look after my son carefully and teach him good discipline. My son is different now because he can eat meals by himself; greet older people politely, read books, and is just more obedient.”

“I think that in the future our country will develop child care the same as western countries, and this service will help kids to develop themselves and make them more brave and clever,” said Khem Sokha.

The Happy Kid Care Center became the first day care center in Cambodia to accept children as young as six months old when it opened its doors in April of this year. From only three children enrolled on opening day, the center now has 30 kids, including two children of foreigners.

“There are eight caregivers at my center and they each have to train for two months before they come to work at the center,” said Khem Sokha.

The center’s nanny supervisor, Tim Sophea, 35, said she has to try her best when taking care of the children in order to win the trust of parents. She said she considered the children as her own.

 “This work is very difficult and I have to endure a lot with them because the kids are like crabs,” said. “If I talk or do something harshly with them, they will cry or get angry with me. I have to speak gently with them, never yell at them. I have to tell them, ‘I love you and if you cry or don’t listen to me. I will stop loving you.’”

“I like kids and I want to work with them,” said caregiver Soy Makara, 20. “Even though they make me tired, I am happy to take care of them. I never shout at them. If I do something harsh with them, my director will make me stop work,” she said.

“It’s a good idea that some parents can send their children to day care centers instead of leaving them at home without proper care,” said Dr. Sorn Sarath, director of the health department at the NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant.

“Child care can help reduce the workload of parents who are too busy to look after their kids because they have to work all day,” Sorn Sarath said. “We can’t say their parents are neglecting their responsibilities because we give the children time to meet friends and learn, and they still have time with their parents in the evenings.”



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