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Without the voices and laughter of their children, Arun* and Riya’s* house in Thailand was disturbingly quiet, magnifying their sadness and deep sense of loss.
Desperate to earn a decent wage, the parents migrated from Cambodia to Thailand in 2015, leaving their sons, Thea*, 11, and Makara*, 9, and their daughter, Kiri*, 8, in a government-run orphanage, where the children’s grandmother worked.
“We were very poor and had no skills to earn more money,” Arun said.
“We wanted a better life for our children and the ability to send them to school.”
“Leaving the children was so sad but we felt like there was not really a choice.”
If the children’s grandmother was not working as a cook at the orphanage, Riya said she might have stayed behind in Cambodia to care for them. But knowing the children would see the familiar face of their grandmother each day eased their worries, a little.
At the orphanage Thea, Makara and Kiri lived with about 72 other children.
“We would eat breakfast, walk to school and then come back to the orphanage for lunch and to play,” 11-year-old Thea said.
In Thailand, the children’s father Arun learnt blacksmith skills, while their mother Riya worked in a factory.
During this time, CCT’s Social Worker Dalin, who works with the Cambodian local government, began looking into the family’s case. Dalin’s role with the government is part of the 3PC partnership, a Cambodian program aimed at building stronger child protection systems and meeting the shared goal of reducing the number of institutionalised children by 30% by 2018.
After 18 months, the family separation became too much to bear and Arun and Riya returned to Battambang in 2016.
“We were worried that we would not be able to get the kids back,” Riya said.
Dalin coordinated with staff at the orphanage and the local government to reunify the family. They are now all living together in their former home, which is 25km from Battambang. Dalin worked with the family to create a case plan and determine the types of support that would be required to ensure they could stay together. This support involved enrolling the children in their local school, and providing school supplies, like text books and uniforms, as well as a bicycle so the children could get to school more easily. CCT also provided a 50kg bag of rice on a monthly basis. These measures ensured the family could remain together while Arun and Riya secured jobs.
It wasn’t long before Arun found work as a blacksmith, and Riya got a job washing clothes, giving the family a consistent income stream and enabling them to meet all of their children’s needs.
“My goal is to work for myself as a blacksmith and supply services in our village, where no one else has these skills,” Arun said.
“We are all so happy to be reunited.”
*Names changed to protect privacy.