Children in Families (CIF) champions strong women and, in fact, CIF would not exist without the determination of a couple of them. A partnership between a Khmer woman and an American woman sparked a flame that would be an important element in to reshaping orphan and alternative child care in Cambodia. Both women, Keo Ravy (CIF staff call her Ming Ravy, or Auntie Ravy) and Cathleen, worked in orphanages in Cambodia. They realized there must be a better way to care for children who are orphaned and families who have to give up their children due to socioeconomic difficulties. Both had witnessed the local community’s desire to care for their children. They knew it was possible but could not foresee just how far it would go or what the journey would look like.
Recently we had the opportunity to hear Ming reflect on her memories of CIF’s early days.
In the beginning, Children in Families was a small, two-person operation working out of Ming’s house in Phnom Penh. It was difficult emotionally to start. People thought they were crazy and many indicated that family based care would never work in Cambodia. When she became discouraged, Ming would think of her kind mother and grandmother, who adopted two kids and loved them well.
Ming devoted her time to learning as much as she could. When she presented the concept to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth, they invited her to travel to Korea with them to study child development and to learn from Korea’s experience of implementing a foster care system. She returned full of inspiration and hope. There was no foundation of laws, policies, or procedures in place, so Ming spent her first years meeting with Ministries, learning laws, and visiting as many officials and offices as possible. She laid out the vision for what CIF’s purpose would be. The scope of what she wanted to do surprised many. With support from some key partners though, she was able to build some important relationships. As she has invested in these relationships, more people and agencies began to catch her vision of family based care and offer their support.
When listening to Ming, her tenacity and passion has a way of moving us into action. CIF was literally doing emergency child care out of a single house and has grown to what it is today. We have multiple programs helping over 300 children. This growth has only been possible because of the passion and vision that Ming and Cathleen had to help vulnerable children be placed in loving families.
Ming finished by sharing, “Yesterday I went to visit a child. When he was found, he was almost dead. Now he has a family and is healthy. He gets to go to school. Our vision is that every child would have a family, and grow up in their community loved.”
We realize, dedicated men and women in this community make what we do possible. Today, though, we want to join in celebrating the women who have been there since the beginning. We have strong mothers relentlessly loving and championing their children. And, we have incredible women filling key leadership roles throughout our organization.
Happy International Women’s Day!