In December 2015, all six clients who were living at Hagar’s House of Smiles Disability Project Group Home transitioned into government services through the Ministry of Social, Veteran and Youth Affairs (MoSVY). With a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) now signed between Hagar and MoSVY, this long- planned exit strategy is hailed as a great partnership success with Cambodian Government services. A one year technical advisor and monitoring agreement was made with MoSVY, as well as a commitment to make some minor renovations to the government facility to ensure that clients have their needs fully met in the new location.
Similarly, Hagar Cambodia is currently finalising an MOU with the Ministry of Education after successfully transitioning 76 students with intellectual disabilities into the public school system in December. Hagar views this transition as a success due to our students getting officially registered in the school, and because the government has taken back a role of providing education to those with disabilities that has to date largely been covered by NGOs. The Government is also considering paying special education teachers a double salary to help recruit qualified teachers into this specialisation. As part of the 2 year technical advisor and monitoring agreement Hagar will continue to ensure quality care is provided for our clients by government staff. Hagar will also update the national curriculum for special education and provide numerous training for government teachers.
Scroll down to read more about Hagar’s House of Smiles, and the importance of caring for people with intellectual disabilities in Cambodia
The following article about Hagar’s House of Smiles program was published in Chronic Illness Cures.
Hope And Help Through House Of Smiles
By Brian Field, co-founder of the Autism Support Network
Vetta never knew his parents. As a mere infant he was abandoned on the streets of Cambodia. Taken to a government-run orphanage, he grew up lacking fundamental support. When he became frustrated, he would turn aggressive. He would spin and twirl objects, bang his head, and rock back and forth for comfort. Those caregivers in the orphanage, could not understand him, they would swear at him, hit him, call him crazy. Many things scared Vetta, other children, other people. He would hide away, or push away from people. To make matters worse, Vetta seemed unable, or unwilling to speak.
Vetta is not crazy, Vetta has autism. And in developing nations, developmental delays and neurological disorders such as autism are often significantly misunderstood. Those with such disabilities are some of the most at risk groups in Cambodia, and most marginalized. Children such as Vetta, are often abandoned or, if not abandoned, hidden away in their homes without education, therapy or friends. Treated like animals.
But in a place like Cambodia, and in an environment of poverty, misunderstanding and such difficulty, there is nonetheless hope. This hope comes from a nonprofit institution called Hagar International which operates a facility called “House of Smiles.” The program provides therapy, education and an opportunity to integrate into society.
For Vetta, the House of Smiles program and the therapy it provides him has taught him how to begin to speak, and he is becoming more independent and involved in the community. He smiles more, enjoys greater mobility, has learned to read and live with greater independence and dignity within the community.
For all those benefiting from this small nonprofit organization program, the goal is reintegration into society. Now 17 years old, Vetta continues his education and support with House of Smiles and has even found a foster family.
Hagar’s House of Smiles program, demonstrates that in developing nations, and impoverished financial circumstances, people’s lives are being changed for the better. Those once hidden away are being helped, integrated into society, and taught the skills that allow them to seek their own happiness.
First published in Chronic Illness Cures.