Safe Haven Medical Outreach

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Safe Haven Medical Outreach is a small grassroots organization with five employees who work with children with functional variations and their families. The team comprises a manager (who is also a nurse), a project coordinator with a family support function, a physiotherapist, a social worker and an administrator. The great thing about Safe Haven is that they focus on “the whole child” and have developed an interdisciplinary approach that meets children’s needs for health, rehabilitation, development and social support. This includes a comprehensive assessment of each child and their family, developing an action plan to meet their needs and defining specific goals, along with regular follow-ups to update the goals and monitor progress. This work is done in the children’s homes or at the Safe Haven office. The organization also offers support groups for parents, and accompanies children and parents on visits to the doctor and others. They also cooperate with a local church that provided a tuk-tuk adapted for the disabled, which can transport children in wheelchairs to the doctor, for example. The number of children and families receiving this support increases each year, but it is far from sufficient. Accordingly, Safe Haven has worked actively to build and strengthen this expertise among other players, both governmental and non-governmental, so that ultimately, more children and their families will receive the support and assistance they are entitled to.

Children with special needs are extremely vulnerable in Cambodia. The country has adopted several laws to safeguard their rights, but they are not applied in practice and a de facto welfare state does not exist. Discrimination against children with special needs is widespread and begins in village communities, where the children are often stigmatized and avoided – and are often exposed to mistreatment, violence and abuse, since they are “easy targets.” In most cases, they cannot attend school, as the teachers are not trained or used to including children with functional variations in their lessons, nor are there any adapted classrooms or bathrooms. Even if these did exist, the children would be unable to get to school, as the schools are often located far from villages and school transport does not exist.

Childhood’s support enables Safe Haven to employ and train more staff, increase other organizations’ expertise through training, mentorship and coaching, and engage in coordination and cooperation aimed at reaching out to more children and families and expanding the services offered to them.