WHAT WE DO
The Wat Opot Children’s Community (WOCC) was started as the Wat Opot Project, an AIDS hospice, in 2002, when anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines were not yet available in Cambodia. In 2004 ARV medication became available to the adult residents of Wat Opot and for the children in 2005. By 2007, the residents went from dying from the virus to being able to live productively with it and the hospice was officially closed. The Wat Opot Project was transformed into the Wat Opot Children’s Community (WOCC) in order to provide residential care for the children who were left behind after their parents or caregivers died.
At that time, it was rare, and perhaps unique in Cambodia, for HIV-infected and non-infected children to live together as family, sharing homes and meals and playing together. This set an example for the community, and its effect on increasing tolerance and diminishing fear cannot be overstated. Many orphanages are simply holding tanks, where children are warehoused until they come of age. Wat Opot is a loving extended family, a place where former kids (now young adults) spend their summer break and return to on holidays, sometimes bringing their own new families.
In addition to our young residents, WOCC continues to financially support our former child residents who are either attending trade school or university in Phnom Penh When funds permit, we can support impoverished children/young adults from the surrounding villages as they pursue an education.
Watt Opot receives children from Social Services as they are called upon to investigate vulnerable children in the Takeo Province. Home assessments are completed on each new case determining whether the child can stay with her/his family (and attend school) with some financial help or if it’s a destructive situation whereas the child’s physical or emotional health is in danger.
When a child is placed in our care every means available are used to keep them in touch with their biological family including ongoing visits and evaluations to try and reunify them in the future if possible.