Reunited with her family after 5 years living in an orphanage

July 2023

In 2016, Chantha’s family placed her in an orphanage in Battambang, Cambodia, called SKO. SKO is the same orphanage that Tara Winkler and Jedtha Pon helped 14 children to escape from in 2007, which led to them founding CCT.

Chantha, now 13, grew up in the jungle living with her mother, father, younger sister and younger brother. Her dad, Sinat, worked as a labourer in different provinces across Cambodia, making approximately $5 a day. “I didn’t earn enough to cover my children’s education,” said Sinat.
“So, I decided to place my daughter (Chantha) in an orphanage so she could go to school.”

Sinat would make the 7 hour journey from his home to Battambang to visit Chantha in the orphanage whenever he had the money. After Chantha had been living at the orphanage for five years, Sinat found out that she had not been attending school.

“The orphanage wasn’t what I expected. I was told my daughter wasn’t happy and wasn’t doing well in schoolI worried a lot and wanted her to come home,” said Sinat.

CCT met Chantha in 2020, after Sinat had already made the decision that he wanted to bring Chantha home. After meeting CCT, the reintegration process began. CCT social workers made the 7 hour journey to Chantha’s family several times in the lead up to the reintegration, ensuring they had the supports and services they required so that child-family separation would not occur again.

Before Chantha returned home, Sinat expressed that he would like to have his own small business, which would mean he could be home with Chantha and not have to travel for work. CCT’s family finance officers partnered with Sinat, training him in financial literacy skills like saving, budgeting, paying off debt, identifying needs v wants etc. CCT then supported Sinat with the physical materials needed to build a chicken coop and a vegetable farm so he could start his own agriculture business.

At the end of 2021, CCT social workers picked up Chantha from the orphanage in Battambang and made the journey home with her. On the day that she returned home, emotions were high for everyone. Sinat said, “I’m just feeling so excited, I’ve waited for this day, the day they bring my child home. I’ve felt like I lost her for these 5 years. I have no words to say how excited I am that she’s home.”

When Chantha returned home, her family realised how much school and social development she had missed missed while at the orphanage. Chantha’s younger sister began tutoring her, helping her to catch up to her peers. CCT provided Chantha and her 2 younger siblings with everything they needed for public school, including school books, school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and bicycles to travel to and from school.

The family’s house was very small. It was one small room with one bed and no door. There was not enough room for the family to sleep and the walls and roof were full of holes. During the rainy season, the house flooded. To ensure Chantha was returning to a safe home environment, CCT built the family a new house which would keep the family safe. “Before when I lived in my old house, it was leaking when it rained. The new house is not leaking anymore so I can have a nice sleep and I have my own bedroom, furniture and I can sleep with my sister, ” said Chantha.

Since Chantha’s reintegration, the family has gone from strength to strength. Sinat’s business has become very successful and he no longer requires support from CCT to send his children to school. Chantha has been attending school everyday and the family have noted how much more confident she is and how her studies have improved since being home. “I’m really happy that I am back living with my family. I can go to school with my siblings and hang out with them and my family is full of happiness,” said Chantha.

Before we closed this case, social workers went to visit Chantha’s family to make sure they had everything they need to ensure their ongoing health and wellbeing. Sinat said, “I am getting better as I now own my own business. If one day CCT ends their assistance, I am strong enough to support my family.”