By TARA WINKLER
This is how running an NGO for children in Cambodia made me realise the importance of mothers.
Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. This year, I reflected on how much my attitude toward the holiday has changed.
With over a billion dollars spent on the holiday each year, I used to see Mother’s Day as an engine for consumerism
I don’t see it that way anymore.
I am not a mother, but I am responsible for many children and it has definitely changed my perspective on many things, including the importance of mothers.
In 2007, I established Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) and suddenly became responsible for 14 children.
It wasn’t something I had planned. While traveling in Southeast Asia, I volunteered at an orphanage. Later, I learned the orphanage’s director was corrupt. He had been embezzling all the donations and the children were suffering gross neglect, being forced to catch mice and rats to feed themselves. Worse still, the director of the orphanage was physically and sexually abusing them.
I had to act. With the help of one of the orphanage staff, and the support of the Cambodian government, I took the children from the orphanage and started CCT.
These children had been through so much. Some had lost their parents and lived on the streets. I wanted to give them a safe home where they could receive the care every child needs.
I was 21 at the time, and to be honest, I was in way over my head. Fortunately, I had help from many people including, of course, my own mother. I appreciated her a lot more after better understanding the huge responsibility that it is to look after kids.
I took my new responsibility to these 14 children seriously, and I started to research how to structure CCT to best care for them.
Along the way, I learned upsetting things about orphanages in Cambodia.
In Cambodia, most children in orphanages are not actually orphans. They are children from poor families. The primary reason these parents place their children in orphanages is to access to education.
Yet these families aren’t aware of the harm orphanages can cause children.
Being separated from family has a lasting effect on children. Research shows living in orphanages can harm them physically, intellectually and emotionally, at times even causing personality disorders.