L* was born in Kandal province. She is now 25 years old and has one daughter, who is now nearly 3 years old. L was orphaned at a very early age and she grew up in Kean Khlang Orphanage in Khan Chroy Changva in Phnom Penh. The staff at Kean Khlang Orphanage found her long-lost sister and reunited the two. However, it didn’t end well as they were not able to build a good relationship, having been separated for a very long time and were basically strangers to each other. It didn’t take long for her sister to abandon her. L was left to fend for herself. As she has an intellectual disability, she was in a very vulnerable situation. She was living off the streets of Chroy Changva when she met a married man who tricked her into a sexual relationship. When she got pregnant, the man promptly disappeared. She had no one to help her, nowhere to go, no money and she did not even know how to take care of herself. The Sangkat authorities in Chroy Changva contacted Mother’s Heart for help.
By the time L got into the program, she was already eight months pregnant. Food, pregnancy care, shelter, and counselling were immediately provided to her. She was also given the opportunity to attend a vocational training for one year; but, due to her disability, she had difficulty in learning and relating with other people, and in getting a job. L was frustrated at herself, stressed, worried, and felt hopeless about her future with her baby.
For a year she was under MHO’s care – receiving food, shelter, allowance, and parental education classes. All of these emotions were doubled when COVID-19 happened and sent her more into depression, anger, frustration, and hopelessness knowing that MHO would soon stop providing for her and her daughter. Our staff continued to find more ways to support her and connect her to something that would give her sustainability and open the door for independence. Having a beneficiary with disability is very challenging, especially in Cambodia, where inclusivity is still in its infancy. Organizations like PSE have the right program for people with disabilities, but like other organizations, the operations are also hampered or threatened by lack of funding.
When L finally was offered a place at PSE for a vocational training, her case worker monitored her closely. She was accepted in a training course on baking and cleaning and housekeeping. She successfully finished the 5-month training, with all the challenges possible. But the social worker encouraged her even more and the staff at PSE were also giving her the right motivation that to everyone’s surprise – she completed the course and was offered a job. Attending the training course also had brought some kind of improvement/influence in L’s life at the women’s home. She became more conscious of her things in the room. She puts everything in order, keeps her and her daughter’s stuff neatly. And she cooks more frequently for her and her daughter’s meals.
Her allowance, and now her salary, used to be with the women’s home house mother or her case worker for safety and for assisting her in budgeting. These days, she is now in full control of her salary. The one-on-one learning from the social workers during education classes have positive results, slowly but hopefully will continue. L continues her work as a cleaner at SOVANA market. Before she goes to work, she takes her daughter to the day care and picks her up after work. Together they go home to the women’s home. Sometimes, they drop by the market on their way to get some food to cook at home.
When asked by her case worker, L said she felt that her life is a little bit easier. She follows the same routine every day, and when she forgets something, she can always call for advise. L looks a lot better these days – she has a job that gives her a monthly income, she takes care of herself and her daughter, they spend time together, she can do some things on her own, and most of all, she feels happier than before.