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Having a VOICE in Phnom Penh

Karen Owens, R.N. Share:

Throughout the world many families and children are homeless or displaced. This week I talked to Hillary Larman, a representative for VOICE in Cambodia. VOICE is a small organization in Phnom Penh supporting groups of people affected by homelessness.
What is VOICE?
VOICE works with people in crisis to help them access their basic human rights. Our method is to listen first. We use a participatory approach because we believe it is the people themselves that must lead the path to their own development and future.
We want to give a voice to marginalized and disempowered people. We work to address the immediate crisis while making a sustainable plan for the future, helping people gain independence.
VOICE envisages a world where individual voices are heard, people are no longer marginalized and disempowered, and human rights are respected and upheld.
How does VOICE support these people?
We work with about 300 families all in a specific community; we do some outreach when we have been introduced to some people, generally in a very specific community, because of forced evictions. Many of these people are in a state of crisis years after being evicted.
A state of crisis means a lot of different things to different people.
We have criteria and it might mean that they are in immediate danger or don’t have shelter, or they only eat once a day or have a case of thalassemia with no access to blood transfusions. Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin.
When we identify people in crisis, we develop a long-term plan with them by addressing their immediate needs.
Where did these people end up when they were evicted?
Initially, many of these people were moved to another urban slum and others were just living amongst the rubble.
I see that you help children get into schools?
We have three types of programs:
1. Helping People in Crisis (individual case management to help clients transition from crisis to independence). Our goal is to address the crisis that is putting their family in a more vulnerable situation and easing them into independence where they can support themselves.
2. Helping Children Access School (daily lunch, transport to school, yearly school pack, individual case management/counseling, homework assistance, regular first aid). Essentially we are helping children stay in school. The children that qualify for the program get a school pack, with their school uniforms and supplies. We provide a tuk tuk to take them to and from school and they eat lunch at our center. They also get individual case management to ensure that they are doing well and coping at school and home.
3. Helping Sick Children Access Healthcare (includes the thalassemia project and general medical emergencies). Reducing the impact of sickness on children, we try to find medical care for children. We also help children affected by illness, say if their mother is sick and they cannot go to school because they have to work.
Thank you Hillary for sharing with us the important work that VOICE is doing for families affected by homelessness and displacement.

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