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Pausing from reading a book while sitting in a hammock, Thida* (name given by author to protect the child), a 13-year-old girl, told us that she loves her parents, especially her father because he is now taking good care of her and her siblings.
“He [my father] teaches me and my siblings every day before bed,” Thida said with a smile. “He does not beat us anymore.”
Thida, who lives in Prey Veng province in the southeast of Cambodia, recalled that her father used to abuse alcohol and would beat and insult her and her mother and siblings. He did not work, and Thida’s mother was the one who earned money to support the family. Her mother urged her husband to stop drinking, but this only led to more violence and insults. When he would drink, the rest of the family would go to sleep at her grandmother’s house to avoid the abuse.
“I was scared and felt ashamed – [I thought], why do I have such a father?” Thida said, holding back tears. “Even though my mother [encouraged] us to continue studying, I could not concentrate on my schoolwork. No one cared about us, our health and education.”
Thida, a grade six student, explained that her mother really wanted to stop her husband’s negative behaviors. Her mother attended a parenting group session and tried to apply the lessons with her husband. But even this effort could not change her father’s actions.
In 2015, a volunteer Community Social Worker (CSW) received information about Thida’s family and came to meet her and her mother. At the point when the CSW intervened, Thida was suffering from severe depression. The CSW listened to their story and tried to provide counselling to the family.
“Aunty Rany [CSW’s name] came to meet us every day and asked me to express my feelings,” Thida described. “I told her everything, after that, I felt relief and relaxed.”
She explained that while supporting her and her mother, the CSW also tried many times to meet her father, but failed because he was usually drinking. Finally, one morning she came to Thida’s house very early in the morning to meet her father, and she was able to talk to him.
“I did not know what they talked about, but two months later, my father changed completely,” Thida talked a little bit louder. “My father reduced drinking alcohol day by day and finally [after] only two months, he stopped drinking completely.”
Thida and her siblings did not have enough school materials, so the CSW raised this issue to the commune council to get support. The CSW still continues to provide counselling support to Thida, her mother and her siblings.
“We now have school materials and Aunty Rany comes to see us every day, making sure that we are happy,” Thida expressed with joy. “At school, I have a lot of friends and [get] good grades.”
Thida is not scared of going home anymore and she is confident when speaking. The CSW has also provided Thida and her siblings with good advice on how to take care of their health and practice proper hygiene.
“I am very happy because I have a warm and safe family, and our relationship with our father is better” Thida told us with a big smile.