In Cambodia children can live with their mothers inside prison until they are 3 years old but nothing is provided for them. The poor hygiene and food conditions are even worse for the children. They often remain in prison for several years with their mothers, are not provided a food ration and therefore rely on their mothers sharing their own food rations with them. They also do not learn the life skills essential for their childhood and adult life.
Since our first mission to Cambodia in 2011, and after learning about the situation of these children, Morning Tears has been supporting the children through our partner in Cambodia, Il Nodo. Currently we visit ten prisons all over Cambodia at regular monthly intervals and provide the following support:
We provide basic needs for children and pregnant women. This includes monthly deliveries of personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, provisions of rice, food supplements and medicines if needed.
Psychological and social support
During our visits we follow-up on incarcerated mothers and their children. The development of the children is monitored and psychological and social support provided.
Prison staff as playroom assistants
We have trained prison staff in 3 prisons to become playroom assistants who play every morning with the children in a designated playground area inside these prisons. Donations of toys have supported these efforts. This way the children have the opportunity to be active, play and learn even though they are inside prisons. The mothers are also provided with an opportunity to play with their children in these playgrounds and learn how to play and stimulate their children.
Social worker training
We provide training for social workers in Phnom Penh. We leverage our 15 years of first-hand experience combined with the latest academic insights to tailor training in accordance to the socio-cultural situation in Cambodia. Through this training, we hope to build a group of social workers with special expertise in addressing the challenges faced by children of prisoners. The train-the-trainer systematic is applied in these trainings to strengthen local childcare capacity.
Our first two training sessions were made possible through funding and support from the Lauritzen Foundation, Denmark.
Tracking system for lost children of prisoners - living outside of prisons
We are currently fundraising for the next step in our program; a survey of the numbers and needs of children, affected by imprisonment of their parents, who are not living with them inside the prisons. These children are in great danger of being subject to human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation.
Parents have often lost sight of their children upon incarceration. We intend to set-up a child tracing network in close cooperation with the Cambodian authorities. The aim is to re-unite children with their parents and to provide these children with the support they need to develop their full potential.
Education, life and job skills
Supporting children inside and outside of prison by providing education, job skills and vocational training is a long-term goal of Morning Tears in Cambodia. Incarceration often deprives children of a family support system and only an education will provide them with means to earn money in the formal job market. The duty to earn money for the family is a ‘normal’ expectation of the children in most of the poor families in Cambodia. However, children of prisoners often completely lose the main income provider of the family and become so themselves. They need to work to support their younger siblings and to provide extra food for their imprisoned parents. When parents are released they are unemployed and rely completely on their children.
Action against Spina Bifida in newborns
We provide folic acid to pregnant women in prison as a simple and effective method to prevent Spina Bifida in their babies. Medical support like this will not only help prevent serious and life-long illness, but will also help prevent mothers and children from suffering a lifetime of poverty in a country, where access to medical aid is expensive and completely unavailable in more remote areas. (This work is done in cooperation with the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus).
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