Frequently Asked Questions
Who gets to live at the Rescue Centres?
The Rescue Centers are groups of homes for orphan children residing in 40 houses on three properties. We also have 20 homes for adults coping with AIDS. They live in these houses with their own children. Twenty-seven destitute elderly women live in two Granny Houses.
Rescue receives adults coping with AIDS if they have children they are caring for and if they are sick and have spent all their resources trying to get better, leaving them homeless. Many elderly women lost their husbands and children during the Khmer Rouge era or, later, because of the AIDS crisis. If they are sick and homeless, Rescue welcomes them to come live at the Center. Children are welcomed if their mother has died or if the Department of Social Services has deemed the mother unfit to care for her children. Rescue does not receive children simply because their parents are poor or desire to leave their children somewhere so that they can work.
If the child still has living relatives, why does he live at a Rescue Centre?
According to traditional cultural norms and practices in Cambodia at this time, when a mother dies, the father rarely looks after his children by himself. Husbands will normally almost immediately get a new wife. It is rare for the new wife to accept the stepchildren as her own. Often she simply refuses to have them live with her, and if she allows them to stay, she is often unkind to them. If she has a child of her own, it will be even worse for the stepchildren. Other relatives are usually too poor to take on the responsibility of grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Helping the relatives with provisions for the orphan children becomes very difficult, because the relatives, of course, will share whatever is given with all the extended family. The orphan children often do not have the same status as the other children. It is an accepted social slot for orphan children to be, not beloved children, but servants in the household. At best, the orphan children will get to go to school, even though they must also serve the family by cooking, cleaning, and babysitting. At worst, they will be mistreated and beaten or sometimes sold. In any case, they will not be highly esteemed and their self-image will be trashed. Poverty is not harmful to children, but lack of love is damaging in the extreme.
Why doesn’t Rescue put these children in foster care?
After many conversations with Cambodians, we have come to understand that children are often not well-loved in many of these situations. Of course, at the Rescue Centres, they are also being cared for in what could be called “foster care” since ten children live together under the care of a house mother. The difference is that she does not have children of her own, so she is not in the position where she will make a distinction between her children and foster children. Also, while living in what could be called Rescue village, though she is free to parent her household in her own way, her actions are always monitored. Every week all the house mothers meet with supervisors to discuss problems and pray together. Much accountability is required both financially and behaviorally.
How long can the children live at a Rescue Centre?
Orphans who come are received permanently into their Rescue family. When children pass their grade 12 exams, they can go on to university. We have two university dorms in Phnom Penh where we have a partnership with New Life Fellowship and their excellent dormitory program. Our university students from Rescue Centre 2 stay in our dormitory in Svay Sisaphon while they study. For those who do not continue to study, we provide skills training for them according to their choice. Of course, children are always welcome back to their Rescue home for visits and special occasions once they are grown.
Why do some adults and children choose to leave?
Sometimes AIDS patients leave because they have heard of another organization that they think might help them in a way that seems more acceptable to them. Sometimes children leave because their relatives or others have persuaded them that there is a good job opportunity for them. This is especially true of our children in the Rescue Centre in Mongkol Borey, near the Thai border. Many Cambodians go to Thailand to work. Very rarely, we take in a child who is so damaged emotionally or socially that we realize we are not equipped to help him. For the sake of the other children, we are unable to keep the child. We seek out other organizations that may be able to help him. Occasionally, a teenage child will refuse to continue to go to school. If all efforts fail to convince the child to stay in school, and he is under the age of 18, the child will go back to live in his village with relatives. Sometimes this situation is only temporary, and the child returns to us.
How does Rescue come to welcome babies?
Babies that are not “perfect” are sometimes abandoned. If they are handicapped, have cleft palates, or are mentally challenged, mothers sometimes refuse to care for them. Sometimes this is the result of a false religious belief that makes them fear bad karma. A child with bad karma may be thought to bring harm to whoever cares for him. Other circumstances come up that cause a mother to not be able to care for her baby.
Why don’t you have foreign staff?
We desire that our children grow up with a strong identity as Cambodians. We want them to love the fact that they are Cambodian. We have Cambodian house mothers seeking to raise them as typical Cambodian children, preparing Cambodian food, attending Cambodian schools, being disciplined by Cambodians, and worshipping in their mother tongue. They play Cambodian games and learn Cambodian dance. We want them to take leadership and responsibility and set the agendas. We desire that our children believe in their ability to reach for the top. There are presently over 100 Cambodian staff employed by Rescue.
What criteria do you require in a house mother?
House mothers come from various places throughout the country of Cambodia. If they are older women and men who have already raised their children, we give them a house full of boys. If they are younger women, at least the age of 30 who have never married and don’t plan to marry, we give them a house full of girls.
A house mother must be a strong believer in Jesus with some Bible knowledge. She must be able to read and write but does not necessarily need a high education. She must be motivated by love for the children rather than a desire for money. She needs much patience and wisdom.
Are there short-term volunteer opportunities?
At Rescue, we desire to honour and lift up Cambodian people. When they are capable of doing things for themselves, we believe it is better to have them do everything for themselves. The Cambodian people, even our children, are capable of doing almost everything. The Cambodian staff and extra workers we might hire can do most tasks. The reality is some many Cambodian men and women need the work. The only area in which Cambodian staff could use outside assistance is in the area of teaching English as a second language. We offer the opportunity for teachers to volunteer to teach English for at least three months. We welcome groups of English speakers yearly to hold weeklong English camps with our best students.
If people ask to visit Rescue Centres, we welcome that. They come at a time when the children are in school and adults occupied with what they routinely do. The visitors get to observe regular life at the Centre. We welcome gifts but prefer to give them out ourselves at appropriate times.
We recognize that a visit can be life-changing. No matter how much we tell about what we are doing and try to explain by words and pictures what great places the Rescue Centres are, you have to see it to believe it. When people come to visit and to pray with us, it is a great encouragement to us.