Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Orphanage tag lost, but group still offering help

Orphanage tag lost, but group still offering help

Orphanage tag lost, but group still offering help

The vice-president of a Christian organisation that Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng said on Wednesday would have to “cut” 70 of its 93 orphanages and turn them into community centres, yesterday denied the homes were being closed.

Sou Mountha, vice-president of the Foursquare Children of Promise, an organisation that runs church-based religious homes and is sometimes referred to as Good News, told the Post the 70 centres that were formerly orphanages had changed status but would continue to provide services to those in need.

“We are not going to close the homes down. The homes will be open and will be like a pagoda. We will welcome anyone who needs to be there – who needs food, shelter. And we pay for them to go to school,” she said.

FCOP has begun moving children out of residency from within the 70 centres in 22 provinces, though some cannot simply be relocated until her organisation was “very sure” a safe place could be found for them to live. The centres had been reclassified into alternative care facilities because they could not meet strict government criteria for orphanages – including that all residing children were actually orphans – which did not account for realities in the impoverished areas where FCOP worked, she said.

At Wednesday’s launch of a study titled With the Best Intentions, Ith Sam Heng pointed out that only 23 per cent of those in orphanages had actually lost both parents and called on NGOs to stop using children to attract foreign donations.

Seventy orphanages run by Good News (FCOP) would be “cut”, changed into community-based centres and made to stop providing residential care to children, Ith Sam Heng said.

Yesterday, Prak Chanthoeun, director-general at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said FCOP’s 70 orphanages would not be “completely closed” but rather changed into community-based child-care centres.  

Ros Yeng, national facilitator at Chab Dai, a coalition of Christian organisations, said many of the children in FCOP’s orphanages were not actual orphans, though this was not necessarily a bad thing.  “The good thing is they [children] can come and are provided a living and education, and the negative is the children live in the shelter for a long, long time, and it’s very hard when we take them back to their families,” he said.

Sou Mountha said FCOP sought to eventually reintegrate children with their families and did not attempt to religiously indoctrinate them. “We’re not going to make anyone do that ...We love the Buddhist people and we have no problem with them at all,” she said.

A copy of FCOP’s project agreement with MOSVY shows the organisation will spend US$3,058,968 running the 70 community centres over the next three years.

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