A new NGO-run home-care facility opened in Siem Reap on Thursday, one of the largest complexes of its kind in the city. The crowning project of Together for Cambodia (TFC), an NGO founded in 2008, the $850,000 centre will eventually provide residential care for 150 children.
The facility, Dei Koma (or “children’s land” in Khmer), has in fact been operating since construction was completed four months ago, explained Lidia Ginesta, TFC’s founder and president. It currently houses 40 children, all of whom came from the NGO’s older facility located behind Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital. Funds for the new centre were raised primarily in Spain, the US and Australia.
Thursday’s ceremony marked the opening of all three projects that Dei Koma will run on its grounds: the “alternative care centre”, a school and a community sports complex.
The centre took three years to complete, Ginesta said.
The school holds six classrooms and will be open to both residents and members of the community, offering classes in English and Spanish language, as well as computers.
The sports complex contains four football fields along with basketball and volleyball courts.
The alternative home care designation comes from a memorandum of understanding signed with Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation.
Like many such centres in Cambodia, Dei Koma hosts many children who are not – strictly defined – orphans. “We don’t like the word orphanage, because not all the children are orphans, and the word orphanage has a negative connotation,” Ginesta said this week.
However, the children that TFC cares for are some of the most “disadvantaged”, Ginesta said, including some who have appeared in court after suffering abuse, and those who have been put out on the street by their own families. TFC also supports children living with their grandparents.
Each of the children – ranging in age from seven to 19 – have come on the recommendation of the Ministry of Social Affairs. James Sutherland, spokesperson for Friends International, which has staff on the ground in Siem Reap, told Post Weekend this week that, while he couldn’t offer direct comment on Dei Koma, there remained too many institution-based care providers in Cambodia.
“Ultimately, we don’t want children in institutions. There need to be transitions – less residential and more community involved,” he said. “Institutionalisation should always be the last resort.”
Dei Koma operates on strict regulations – especially when it comes to volunteers – and boasts its own team of counselors, house mothers and cooks. Most rooms are private. Ginesta explained that they placed strong emphasis on quality and conditions.
“I don’t think there’s a better place in Siem Reap nowadays,” she said. “We would like to be able to help more children in a short period of time.”