Charity x COVID-19: Ratanak International


There are many people and issues that require immediate attention during these times of uncertainty. Charities have adjusted the way they operate on a daily basis and many have had to make significant shifts to fulfill their particular missions. Unfortunately, many charities may not weather this storm.  

Our intention with the Charity x COVID-19 series is to share updates from a spectrum of charitable organizations to garner attention and inspire support for those in need.

Charity name: Ratanak International

Established:  1990

Core purpose & mandate: 

Ratanak International is a Christian organization that works collaboratively to be a catalyst for transformation in Cambodia through a focus on empowering people experiencing exploitation and addressing the systems that exploit them.

How is your organization impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Ratanak moved swiftly in Canada and Cambodia when it became apparent the coronavirus was spreading quickly around the world and becoming a pandemic.

Canada:

  • Several major fundraising activities have been cancelled until further notice including Ratanak’s 30th Anniversary Emerald Gala. The cancelling of most 30th Anniversary events and all public speaking fundraising events has severely restricted our ability to raise funds.
  • Canadian staff are working remotely, currently commencing their fifth week of physical distancing. Only one person, our bookkeeper, is designated to perform critical administrative functions in the office 3 days a week.

Cambodia:

  • Staff members who can work remotely and have adequate internet access have been sent home to work. Staff members who are required to provide direct service 24 hours a day to those slavery victims in our residential care at the Ratanak Centre and those whose administrative functions prevent working from home, have all been trained in enhanced hygiene protocols and are currently working at their offices while practicing physical distancing protocols.
  • The Leadership Team has created multiple levels of response to the pandemic that are implemented in response to the developing situation. We are moving through the response levels as the pandemic in Cambodia progresses.
  • Ratanak staff are in the process of being designated “Essential Services” by the Cambodian Government to allow greater freedom to provide services.
  • Job skills training internships of human trafficking victims living in the Ratanak Centre have been suspended. Negotiations with the training employers are ongoing. Our hope is to be able to restart these programs as soon as possible when it is safe since these programs are foundational in recovery and life stability.
  • Presently Ratanak has 135 male and female survivors in our care in 23 of 25 Cambodian provinces. Under normal circumstances, our therapists and social workers would be constantly travelling to their villages continuing trauma counselling and economic empowerment within their community as they reintegrate safely. Currently, Ratanak staff is following government travel restrictions and are unable to visit clients. Wherever possible support is being maintained, as best as we can, through extensive phone interaction.
  • As of this writing, we are not able to repatriate seven trafficking survivors (3 in China and 4 in Malaysia) due to international travel restrictions. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. We anticipate this number to grow. It is expected this will create a significant financial and staff resourcing challenge when travel restrictions are lifted and the backlog of those who have escaped all attempts to return at once.

 

How have your fundraising plans changed? 

Due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 Ratanak has reviewed and adjusted the 2020 Fundraising Strategy to reflect the current situation.

  • Ratanak’s Emerald Gala has been postponed and rescheduled to September 19, understanding this major fundraising event may not take place in 2020. Our plans were to leverage 2020 to celebrate Ratanak’s 30th Anniversary and surpass last year’s record setting gala fundraising total of $350,000 to propel Ratanak into the future.
  • 30th Anniversary celebration/fundraising initiatives have been sensitively reduced or postponed to take into account that many of our donors may be financially struggling. This includes our planned campaign to increase our monthly donor base in the month of May – our actual anniversary month.
  • All public speaking fundraising events have been cancelled. This is normally our major platform to introduce Ratanak to potential new donors and encourage those already supporting us.
  • We are continuing our digital and print campaigns to give those who want to step up a platform to give. Giving and helping others, even in times of need, can bring joy to those who are able. However, this requires sensitive re messaging of all outgoing material to preserve the relationship with many who are currently struggling and may not be able to donate at this time.
  • Some donors will be able to step up to meet the current challenging circumstances, but we expect many to step back. We are already experiencing a decline in giving. We see things getting worse and Neil Barkman, our Finance Director, has been modelling multiple scenarios in anticipation of critical income loss (30%, 50%, 70% income loss) to help us plan to preserve our core programming in Cambodia.
  • We continue to work on fundraising activities and view our extensive phone Connection Campaign to all our donors as a key component. Ratanak has always placed a high value on relationships and now is the time to accelerate not withdraw from building relationships with donors by expressing gratitude, concern and appreciation. This may or may not provide immediate financial results but is clearly already building deep-rooted relationships that will serve us well in the future.

 

If there is one story or message you would like to share with our community, what would it be? 

Chantrea is a survivor of international sex trafficking and was repatriated to Cambodia and transferred into our care in a shattered condition. After initial medical, emotional and psychological assessments by the Ratanak team a treatment plan was created by our therapists and case managers. She was reintegrated back to her rural village and her Ratanak case manager has been following up with her on a regular basis. Chantrea has been suffering a chronic illness since her return and she has been unable to work. She lives with a step-parent and four other family members.

This week the Ratanak team in Cambodia learned that Chantrea’s family members lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 – they no longer had any food.  Unable to travel to the village, Chantrea’s case manager phoned the village and commune chiefs alerting them to the family in crisis. The commune chief acted immediately providing a package to support Chantrea’s family: 30kg of rice, 15 packs of noodles, 1kg of sugar, 1 package of salt, 5 bottles of fish sauce, 5 bottles of soy sauce and $40,000 Riel (approx. $10USD).

Ironically, the most exciting part of this story is that Ratanak did not fund this emergency package!

Ratanak has worked for decades in an environment stripped of social services as a result of genocide, civil war and poverty. Corruption and distrust limit the development of societal structures to bring stability and progress. Government agencies have extremely limited resources that are rarely seen being utilized for the poor.

Ratanak seeks to encourage a Cambodia that protects and cares for its own people. Developing such trust with those in authority is no easy thing. However, over the years, Ratanak has been able to build ethical relationships and trust that are now becoming evident in this time of crisis and can serve as the very first hints of Social Services.

The provision of emergency food was provided promptly, with no strings, by local government as a result of a phone call from Ratanak. Such was the measure of trust and influence given to Ratanak staff. This is but a small and anecdotal story that at first seems to have little impact. However, it is an indicator of the far greater shift we have been working for – trust and the development of systems of care.

We are thrilled by the cooperation and trust demonstrated by the village and commune chiefs as they, in response to a phone call, serve their own people with the very few resources they have available. That, ultimately, is a small indicator of a far larger change we have been working towards for years.

Collaboration is a key Ratanak value and this is a prime example of our team living out our values. Development, if done well, will have a direct impact on the lives we serve but equally importantly, it will start to change the environment – we are seeing that!

*  To protect the privacy and security of our clients we do not use their real names in any stories. Please do not post this story on a public website.

How can one support your organization most effectively? 

2020 was to be a year of advancement with our donors celebrating Ratanak’s 30th anniversary and fundraising for the future. Expanding our programs, increasing our ability to develop new national programs with unheard of Government cooperation that restores and transforms the lives of human trafficking survivors in Cambodia was our goal. Today that goal has changed to simply preserving our core programs that have proved so successful. Your support would be invaluable in assisting us to weather the current COVID-19 storm which has the great potential to disrupt what are otherwise long term, stable and highly successful programs for those suffering some of the worst forms of slavery.

Can donations be transferred electronically?   

Yes, donations can be accepted electronically via:

  1. Credit Card: Through the Ratanak website or by calling the office. We have received donations up to $20,000 via the website
  2. Interact e-transfer: Via [email protected] Maximum limit depends on the bank
  • Wire Transfer:
  • Name: Ratanak International
  • Address: PO Box 81038, Burnaby, BC, V5H 4K1
  • Account Number: 0610085
  • Branch Transit Number: 94600
  • Branch Address: 511 West 41st, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 2M7
  • Institution Number: 004
  • Swift Code: TDOMCATTTOR