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UNICEF fund provides life-changing benefits for vulnerable family

New home
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Reid
Thorn Soeun and her grandniece Sambo outside their newly built home. The house was funded through the UNICEF Commune Council budget for vulnerable families.

KAMPONG SPEU PROVINCE, Cambodia, September 2012 - It’s an overcast evening in rural Koky village and 53 year-old Thorn Soeun feeds her numerous chickens before preparing an evening meal for her grandniece Sambo in their newly built home.

Soeun, from the Souy ethnic minority group, who used to live alone, recently acquired a newly built house thanks to the UNICEF-funded commune budget for vulnerable families.

Since 2008, Soeun has been looking after her 10 years old grandniece, Sambo, and 13 year-old grandnephew, Kampsot, after their mother died of AIDS.

Soeun used to live in a very small one-room home, constructed of mud and roughly the size of a table-tennis board, which couldn’t accommodate the additional family members.

“I can’t earn much money and the children need to go to school. I can’t support them and it’s very hard,” explains Soeun.

Soeun earns an income collecting bamboo shoots, snails and picking tamarind leaves from the nearby forests. Unfortunately, her earnings fell short of being able to feed, clothe and educate the children, and out of sheer desperation, Soeun sent her grandnephew to a pagoda in Phnom Penh to become a monk.

New home
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Reid
Thorn Soeun and her grandniece Sambo

Turning point

In 2010, Soeun’s life changed dramatically for the better. Using the Commune Council social service mapping tool – a UNICEF pilot designed to help local communities identify gaps in social services and identify vulnerable children and families in a commune - the Village Chief, Sam Son, introduced Soeun to Ms Ty Long, the Commune Focal Point for Women and Children.

After visiting the family at their makeshift home to assess their living conditions, Ty Long and other commune committee members agreed to support the family using the UNICEF-funded commune budget. This US$1,000 fund is used to prevent and respond to child protection concerns among the most vulnerable children and families in communities, including female headed households, families caring for orphans, and children affected by HIV and AIDS.

The committee released enough funds to build a new and bigger, wooden house for the family and provided food and household items, including rice, noodles, tinned fish, toothpaste, soap and a water filter. 

Soeun’s grandniece, who is in grade four and attends Okor Ki Primary school, also benefitted by receiving learning materials such as a bag, uniforms, books, pens and pencils.

But support from the Commune Council didn’t just end there; with Commune Council help Soeun was able to buy chickens and raise them to sell, providing the family with an additional income.

“Without the support from the commune council and the organisation, it would be very difficult for me to take care of my grandniece”, says Soeun. “The extra money helps me to stay healthy therefore preventing me from being ill so I can earn money to raise the children”, she added.



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