In 2011 when the Heng family began working with CFI, they lived in dangerously dilapidated housing on the outskirts of Battambang and often lacked enough food for all six of the family members. The mother, Sreyoun, was the primary source of income for the family, and, even with her eldest daughter working part-time at a gas station, it was difficult for Sreyoun to provide and care for her husband, her mother, and three children.
Despite these challenges, it was crucial to Sreyoun that the family continue to live together in Cambodia, rather than migrate to Thailand or separate to find work. Her dedication to keeping her family together and willingness to collaborate with her community to make this goal happen is what led her to CFI.
Children’s Future’s social work team interviewed the Heng family and other people in the community to decide how to best help them remain in Cambodia. Community and family involvement in problem-solving is a crucial tenet of CFI’s work, as it generates buy-in from the people most impacted by the situation, while empowering the families and children to take ownership of their own successes.
Together, CFI and the Heng family enrolled the youngest child in public school and after school classes at the Learning Center and provided them with study materials, uniforms, and bikes. The family decided the children would live with their grandmother, who could help watch them while the mother found stable employment. The mom committed to not bring her children to work, and instead encouraged them to finish their studies.
CFI helped connect the Heng family to additional resources to help them stay together in Cambodia, including one NGO that sponsored the family’s monthly rice stipend while the mother looked for better employment and another that arranged for the family to move to safer, more secure housing in the same area.
Now, Sreyoun and her family live together in adequate housing, and she is able to support all the family’s expenses. She says that without the support of CFI, her son would not be able to attend school and her and her daughter would likely have to work in a foreign country, split up from their family. With fewer worries about income, housing, or food, all of the Heng children are able to stay enrolled in school.
Stories like the Heng family’s underscore the importance of collaborative problem solving in Children’s Future’s work. By working together with families, local authorities, and a network of other NGOs in the area, CFI has established itself as a go-to resource for families in need.
CFI does what is necessary to support families like the Hengs, but, at the end of the day, it was Sreyoun’s dedication and perseverance that enabled her family’s success.
**Names changed to protect the privacy of children and families**