Floating villages in Cambodia are communities located in very remote areas in and along lakes and rivers in the country. The remoteness of the floating villages exacerbates many of the challenges already faced by rural communities across Cambodia. Proper health care and nutrition, adequate support for healthy social and educational development, and access to education are major issues for children and families. Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) for Floating Villages project is an intervention designed to address many of the challenges faced by families in these remote communities. Project activities have helped to increase parents’ understanding of child development, including information about proper health and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, and education for young children.
Tonle Kroa village is located on an island in the Tonle Sap River in a remote part of Kampong Chhnang province, about 58 kilometers away from the provincial capital. The majority of citizens make their living through fishing, and farming during the dry season. Many adults have also migrated to find work in Thailand, or left to work in garment factories in other parts of Cambodia.
Mr. Si Sing, a 37-year-old father, was one of the citizens who left Tonle Kroa village to find work in Thailand, but he was unable to save any money for his family back home. “I went to Thailand for nearly a year to work on a sugarcane plantation. I decided to come back home when I became sick and ran out of money. When I arrived home, my children came to meet me with happy faces, but I was shocked when I saw them looking anemic and with messy hair. They asked me for something to eat, and my wife asked me for some money, but I had nothing to give them,” Mr. Sing explained.
Alone for nearly one year, Mrs. Tim Sary, Mr. Sing’s wife, was the sole caretaker for her four sons and young daughter while her husband worked in Thailand. “When he came home, he was ill and had no money, and I had no money for his treatment, so I had to borrow money from my relatives to treat him. We quarrel often when we stay together, but when he went far away I missed him, and my children always asked for him,” she said.
In December 2016, Mrs. Sary and Mr. Sing became members of the parent group established by the ECCD Floating Villages project. They have become very involved in the project activities; they have been trained in positive parenting techniques, and are working to make their home a model ECCD example.
“After participating with the project, I have gained more understanding of how to teach and play with my children at home, especially with my youngest daughter, and [I have also learned to] reduce arguments with my husband. Now my daughter is more courageous and clever than before, she can count and sing very well with other children in the village. I do not have any inheritance for my children – [I can] only [give them] education, counsel, and [positive] discipline which are important assets for their future,” Mrs. Sary said.
Mrs. Phan Sarun, a core teacher and a district council member from Tonle Kroa village, said that previously Mr. Sing would often quarrel with his wife, and he did not take very good care his children. However, after joining the parent group and participating in the parenting sessions, he has made positive changes regarding his responsibilities as a father and his attitude towards his children’s education.
Mr. Sing explained, “I will stop migrating to Thailand because I love my children and wife and I do not want them to live in a difficult situation anymore. I do not have land for farming, so I have to work hard as a fishery and farm laborer [so I can] provide warmth for my children. Since joining the parents group in the village, I have learned a lot [about] education and teaching toddlers at home and giving them love.”