Direct Report by Sotheareak Heang 
Communications Assistant at Free To Shine

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors and people around the world, especially to those developing countries like Cambodia. Free To Shine learned that a lot of the girls and their families have been struggling with extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. Many families have lost their jobs, and a lot of parents who worked at Thailand have come back home with very little money. Food is the most important resource required for survival. Emergency Food Packages have helped the families and the girls survive this crisis, and given them hope and strength beyond this immediate pandemic.

Emergency Food Packages helped to keep the girls and their family members safe, and it helped prevent the girls from discontinuing their educations. Without enough food, the girls and their family members might have gone far from home trying to earn money to support their families while situation of the virus outbreak in Cambodia is still not safe. Moreover, Emergency Food Packages helped keep girls safe at home, so they could keep studying, and not go to work.

Upon being notified by GoPhil that Free To Shine were to receive Rapid Response Funds, our program team created an assessment form to find which families that are most in need of Emergency Food Packages. The form contained several questions about the girls’ family members, the effects of Covid-19 to the families, the support that families have, and the families’ plans after Covid-19. Because of social distancing restriction, our team could not go out to meet the families to do the assessments, so our team decided to do the assessments through phone calls instead.

After the assessments were completed, there were more than 30 families presenting in food crisis. Seventeen families most in desperate need were chosen, and the amount of food package they received, depended on how many members they have living together. Each family received food packages for three months. A food package of each month has rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and salt. Note we also help families who can, grow some vegetables.

With the generosity of GoPhil donors, another round of Rapid Response funding was given to Free To Shine. The remaining families that needed assistance, and a few more that were assessed, could then also receive three months of support. The same assessment, model and calculations were used to manage the allocation of resources to these families and delivery and distribution began much like the first round.

To deliver these emergency food packages safely, we needed tuk tuk drivers with licenses, in order to follow the new Cambodian traffic rules which was announced by the government mid-pandemic, in May. We couldn’t find tuk tuk drivers, who rely on tourists for their income, who had undertaken this new training and license. Hence we chose that three of our team members would do so. Prior to this all our team have licenses to drive motorbikes, in fact for safety purposes we did car and van training and gained full driver’s licenses, to ensure safety on the roads as we travel many kilometres. But during the pandemic the government created and necessitated a new tuk tuk license. Our team, 2 males and 1 female, took exams to get tuk tuk licenses, and all successfully passed.

With the easing of restrictions and local authorities allowing travel to visit the villages, we began delivery, which went smoothly. It took 8 whole days as most of those chosen families live quite far from Siem Reap, and with some difficult roads. While delivering food, our team always practice social distancing, wearing masks and cleaning hands with sanitizer.

This grant for Emergency Food Response enabled us to provide 4,875 kilos of rice, 906 bottles of soy sauce, 930 bottles of fish sauce, 566 kilos of sugar and salt to 62 adults and 92 children.

On behalf of the entire Free To Shine team and the girls and families on our program: THANK YOU.

It is with enormous gratitude and pride that we share this report from Free To Shine. To our entire GoPhil Community and to the many people who have so generously supported the Rapid Response Fund, we also say: THANK YOU.

To continue supporting GoPhil partner programs please consider a donation to the Rapid Response Fund today.