Cambodia is a beautiful country, with a rich culture in South-East Asia. In the second half of the previous century the country went through a period of great turbulence, particulary during the regime of the Khmer Rouge. During this regime nearly two million people were murdered or starved. The notoriety of the ‘Killing Fields’ has become known worldwide. Until 1998 contact with Cambodia was practically impossible and therefore there was no income from trade, industry or tourism.
At the present time Cambodia has 15 million inhabitants, 70% of them are under the age of 25. As a result of illness and poor living conditions there are many orphans. There is extreme poverty in the country and many parents cannot provide adequately for their children because they have to survive on less than one dollar a day. There are also children who cannot live with their parents because they have been mistreated and/or abused. Colt is a children’s home in Phom Penh that provides shelter for 30 such children. These children have different backgrounds, some of them are orphans and others come from broken homes. Some of them have been exposed to violence. There are also children who used to live on the rubbish tip of Phom Penh where they would sort through the refuse in order to earn enough money to survive, an extremely dangerous and unhealthy place to live. The parents of these children give them a chance by ‘relinquishing’ them to Colt.
Colt has three main objectives:
1. A safe and healthy living environment for the children
The Colt children’s home provides a safe living environment for 30 disadvantaged children. The children all have their own bed with a mosquito net and a cupboard. There is a care-taker who is responsible for the children’s general hygiene and a cook who provides healthy meals daily.
All the children have been vaccinated and tested for HIV. In Cambodia it is essential to have good medical care so COLT has a contract with the Visal Sok clinic for treatment in cases of illness or accident. The medical care costs are a major item on the budget. A group of dentists from the U.S.A. take care of the annual dental checks and treatment. Colt committee members and staff assist these dentists in organizing similar visits to several other projects in Cambodia.
A healthy and sustainable general environment is also important. Colt strives to set a good example for the children, students and the neighbourhood. By means of education COLT aims to promote knowledge and awareness with regard to a cleaner and more sustainable world. The Colt Solar Project is a good example of this.
2. Education and training for the Colt children
All Colt children take part in the general Cambodian education programmes which offer a minimum of subjects. Since the very beginning, Colt therefore offered additional lessons in English, computer skills and sewing, both to Colt children and children from the neighbourhood. This has proved to be very popular and, thanks to many sponsors, in 2010 Colt built its own school opposite the children’s home with four classrooms, a computer room and a library.
In 2012 Colt set up a study fund. Donations have enabled Colt to send the older children to a better school. In the coming years the first Colt children will go to university which will increase the education costs of the foundation. The study fund will provide financial support for further education. Colt will also facilitate vocational training for those children who do not go to university so that they can earn a living as hairdresser, beautician etc.
Colt has started a programme of weekly lessons in Chinese. Tourism from China to Cambodia is increasing and being able to communicate in Chinese as well as in English is important for future employability.
Colt strives to provide its children with a summer training programme in various companies so that they can get to know various professions. This will help them to make better study and career choices.
3. English lessons for university students and the neighbourhood
Colt is located in a poor area in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, near a former dump site. Colt does not only want to provide shelter for a number of children but also tries to play an active role in the development of children in the neighbourhood. Colt provides English lessons daily for 100 university students and about 150 children from the neighbourhood. These lessons are given by volunteers from various countries and the evening classes are given by the oldest Colt children. The computer and sewing lessons are available to everyone free of charge and are given by local teaching staff. By offering these free lessons Colt helps to increase opportunities for the poorest people from the area.
Colt works very hard to realize all these objectives and to provide children with a real chance for their future. This requires significant funding. Colt depends mainly on donations and gifts from benefactors. The following is an indication of some the costs.
- - Rice for one month (5 sacks) $ 175
- - Annual university fees $ 450
- - Rent for children’s home & school $ 780
- - One school uniform $ 12
- - One month’s supply of shampoo, toothpaste & soap $ 50