Riverkids helps families with traumatised and exploited children at our centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to rebuild their homes into warm and safe shelters for their children to grow. We help families with mental illnesses, child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, and other terrible crises. We commit ourselves to handling the most difficult cases, those where children need the most help.
Our major program is Lifeboat, a two-year structured intervention for families with multiple problems. We also provide support for very poor mothers with high-risk pregnancies in our Healthy Mum, Happy Baby, provide promising young students with Academic Scholarships and run a wonderful social enterprise for school uniforms and handicrafts for vulnerable people leaving the streets and returning to the workforce, Sew Happy.
In Lifeboat, families in crisis where children are being hurt or in danger from multiple serious problems start with a six month intensive intervention with a social worker and support team. With family counselling, education and health support, innovative direct cash aid and a functional family therapy approach, they create a plan for their own future and make a stable network that can keep them going. A caseworker continues counselling and monitoring them for a further 18 months as the family moves towards independence and stability, with Riverkids as the safety net if a crisis hits so they can stay on track.
Opens daily for children aged six to 17 to attend after school or as catch-up classes until they can be enrolled back into school, receiving one-to-one or small group tuition individualized to them. Two teachers (primary and secondary school) and two assistants help a changing mix of children each month as families move through their six-month intensive phase, where we will identify and find support for those who have any academic or vocational training challenges.
Little Children's Room
For children under six, the emphasis is on social and art-based learning, as the younger children are there for emotional skills, stability and nurturing more than academic preparation. After their six months, they will be transferred to a kindergarten, foster care or daycare near their home. There is a head teacher with assistant teachers and baby caregivers to help a changing mix of children each month as families move through their six-month intensive period.
Trained Foster Care
Instead of institutionalizing children in orphanages where children will face the risk of further psychological damage, we encourage family-based care where we raise, train and provide families with the right tools and skills to care for these children who can grow up with new siblings in a loving home. Financial support towards foster care goes much further than what a dollar can do in institutionalised care in the long term. We believe in and encourage family-based care for orphans without suitable extended family members who can care for them.
Nursing and Community Health
Our senior nurse takes special care to ask around for pregnant and new mothers, knowing what a huge difference prenatal care can make for a healthy delivery. Visiting a family at home is an opportunity to share better health practices and identify hidden health problems. It builds trust and helps us keep children healthy and safe. Preventive care for children means regular dental check-ups, extra vitamins for malnourished children, and organising immunisations. We can provide basic first aid and care such as wound dressing and medical supplies both on-site in our nurse’s room, and when we visit families.
Healthy Mom, Happy Baby
The HMHB Program aims to prevent infant trafficking, malnutrition and mother and infant mortality by helping very poor women with complicated pregnancies during their pregnancy and for up to four months post delivery to give them time to recover, as well as being able to breastfeed safely so they do not have to return to dangerous work or risk their child’s health. The support starts as soon as the woman is registered into the programs.
Direct Cash Aid for Families
Riverkids went through intensive studies to discern the key factor that will encourage clients to stay enrolled in our programs with minimum dropout and higher graduation rate. We found that Direct Cash Aid was the most efficient for the best returns. We began studying successful DCA programs in Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, and designed a very innovative program tied to household size and scaled to the family's current income that works with the specific Cambodian urban slum families of Riverkids. After testing it on our vocational training program for at-risk girls with success, we extended DCA and have added it to our Lifeboat program to stabilize their finances during the intensive phase so they can focus on recovery.
Sew Happy reaches out to women and girls who are very poor, troubled and at risk of trafficking. This sheltered sewing workshop handles the sewing training and provides on-going full employment to highly vulnerable women and fairly-paid and socially supported piecework with flexible time for a wider group of our women who graduate from training to supplement their income. It is a six months training course that encourages women to think about their futures and learn new skills that allow them to support their families in a sustainable way. We help graduates find jobs, set up their own home business or hire them directly on our team for up to two years on contract.
Our social workers play a critical frontline role as they work directly with children and families. Our Social Work team works with up to 60 intensive families, and our Monitoring team works with up to 240 families who have stabilized. From frequent home visits, to organising counselling and care, the social workers aim to stop the crisis before a child is trafficked or abused. The work is intense and difficult, requiring compassion and calm against abuse and trauma, but the joy of seeing a family recovering, of finding a safe home for a child and seeing them recover keeps us going.