In the first event of its kind, Cambodian Children’s Fund brought fathers in the community together to talk about life, families and being good dads

What does it mean to be a good dad?
That was the question posed to fathers in the communities where Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) works as part of a special event to celebrate the important role that men play in Cambodian families.

It’s the first time that dads living in the CCF communities in Steung Meanchey, Phnom Penh, have been brought together for such an event, giving them a platform to share their experiences openly.

Living in one of the most impoverished parts of Cambodia can be challenging for men, who are expected to provide for their families, with the pressure of having a steady income, and be strong as the head of the household.

When things go wrong – such as not earning enough to keep food on the table – fathers can feel marginalised leading to social problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, and domestic violence, fracturing families in the process.

CCF is actively working with husbands and fathers in the community to reduce pressures by supporting families in need (with initiatives such as rice subsidies) and giving men the opportunity to talk about their feelings and concerns.

This led to the first dad’s get-together – timed to coincide close to Father’s Day on 16 June in Cambodia – hosted at Prek Toil, one of CCF’s satellite schools in the community, where the children of some fathers study.

More than 60 fathers turned up.

“A father is important in the family, and important to the community and country,” the assembled dads were told by Phann Samnang, part of CCF’s Community Outreach Team.

“As a strong head of the family, they are good role models for their sons, and other husbands and fathers in the community.”

During the event, the dads were split up into groups and tasked with writing down their thoughts on how to be a good husband and father, and what it takes to create a happy family. As some of the fathers are unable to read or write, CCF Leadership students lent a hand.

Each group then had to present their answers to all the dads. Their thoughts ranged from helping their children with homework, pitching in with household chores such as cooking and making sure that their wife – the mum in the house – feels respected.

CCF Leadership student Vanneit, 16, also stood up and gave a moving talk to the dads about what having a good father means from a child’s perspective.
Vanneit, whose own father died when he was just seven, said encouraging their children to go to school, showing interest in their schoolwork, and making time to spend with their family, were important for fathers, as well as being a positive role model for their own sons and other men in the neighbourhood.

“The children really need to know their father is there for them,” said Vanneit, who was brought up by his mother, who works as a cleaner with CCF.

“ If the father is using drugs or gambling, the children don’t want to study because of the father.
Children learn good habits and good parenting from their fathers and parents.”

CCF intends to hold more similar events for the dads to reach out and engage fathers living and working in the community.

Kate Ginn/CCF

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