When Kosal’s* father passed away and his mother moved to Thailand to find work, he and his younger brother and sister went to live with their grandparents. But the financial strain was too much and Kosal’s grandparents decided that because he was the oldest, he should go and live in a government-run orphanage, where he would have enough to eat and would be able to access education.
“I spent three years at the orphanage and lived with about 100 other children,” 15-year-old Kosal said.
“Everything was done for us, like cooking and cleaning, so we had a lot of free time.”
“Some of my friends were using drugs and I started missing school and giving in to peer pressure.”
CCT Social Worker Dalin, who works with the government in Battambang to reintegrate institutionalised children, took on Kosal’s case and began the process of reunifying the family. The first step was explaining to his grandparents and aunty and uncle about the damaging impacts of institutions on children’s development and the important role of family in a child’s life.
Dalin also created a support plan with the family, which would allow Kosal to live at home, while still being able to access his basic needs. CCT delivers a 50kg bag of rice each month and also provided school uniforms, supplies and a bicycle so that Kosal could go to high school. CCT will support Kosal and his family until they get back on their feet.
Kosal’s mother hopes to return from Thailand soon with enough money to build a new house and start a small business. And in the meantime, Kosal has started working with his aunty and uncle repairing electronics, like phones and televisions.
“I’m so happy to have him home,” Kosal’s grandmother said.
But it hasn’t been easy. “We’ve had to teach him about responsibilities and motivate him to do things like housework because at the orphanage he would just eat and study.”
After years spent disconnected from their families, communities and cultures, reintegration is often a complicated process, with young people having to readjust to the realities of life outside the orphanage walls. Despite the challenges, Kosal’s grandmother said seeing all three children back together brings her a deep sense of gratitude. “Having him home with family is the best thing for everyone.”
* Name changed to protect privacy.