Catrin Rising

A better life for Street Children in Cambodia

Children who live on the streets are one of the most at risk groups for being abuse or exploited. Childhood’s partner organization, Mith Samlanh in Cambodia, seeks out children in the city of Phnom Penh who live and work on the streets and helps them leave this harmful and often dangerous environment.

Mith Samlanh in Cambodia, seeks out children in the city of Phnom Penh who live and work on the streets and helps them leave this harmful and often dangerous environment.

Many children who live on the streets have lost confidence in the adult world. Therefore, projects which focus on street children put great emphasis on re-establishing this confidence and to motivate them to want to accept help. It is important to strengthen the independence which they have built, instead of making them dependent on help. This means that, above all, the projects focus on building a long-term and secure existence beyond life on the streets, rather than distributing food and providing children with temporary beds, which in the worst case can lead to children staying on the streets even longer.

This is how our partner organization, Mith Samlanh in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, works. Through its outreach work, it touches the lives of around 1,800 street children every year. Its field workers regularly visit those areas of the city where children and families live on the streets. They visit the same place several times a week and lay out tarps on the ground to gather the children and adolescents. Quickly, small groups form when they do street outreach. The social worker chooses some books and toys for the smallest children. On another tarp, teenagers gather to discuss sex and relationships, or something else that’s important to them. Young mothers are given advice on breastfeeding and how to keep their infants healthy. Elsewhere, a nurse attends to children who need, painkillers or delousing.

In this way, Mith Samlanh built up the children’s trust and was able to offer them the opportunity to come to a drop-in centre, where, for example, they could eat a meal, wash themselves and talk to an adult about the reasons why they ended up on the streets and if they have any relatives they could contact. The next step could be to make up for lost schooling. There is a program for children with classes a few hours a day. After a while, children can be reintegrated into a normal school. Older children can get help with career training, in a restaurant or as a motorcycle mechanic, for example.

An important part of this work is to track down the children’s families or other relatives who can take care of them with the support of Mith Samlanh. Of course, the longer a child has lived on the streets, the harder it is for them to move back to their family, but most of them have someone with whom they can reconnect. That is why outreach work is so important for children who have recently ended up on the streets – so that they can be quickly identified and helped to get away from an environment that is harmful to them, both in the short and long term.

On many occasions, Mith Samlanh works with entire families who live on the streets or in slums, where children are forced to beg or collect garbage to help support the family. Mith Samlanh’s work may include supporting adults to find a job, helping them start their own small business, or getting them out of alcohol or drug addiction. It is imperative to make the families realise that although, in the short term, the children can bring in a large portion of the family income by begging on the tourist trail, it’s more important for them to get schooling so that they can get a job and support themselves and their family when they grow up.

World Childhood Foundation

Rebuilding Nepal

This week, our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected children and families in Nepal. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the region Saturday has left at least 5,000 dead and thousands injured and homeless. Childhood supports five organizations in the region. During the weekend we tried to reach them, and succeeded at last Monday morning.

One of our partners in the region, Voice of Children (VOC), has been working to strengthen Nepal’s society by aiding the most vulnerable populations, street children and marginalized families, in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Most of the kids the Voice of Children helps are homeless because their families have a history unemployment or psychosocial issues such as substance abuse.

After a weekend of silence, our project coordinator for Nepal, Joel Borgström, managed to contact Voice of Children and received confirmation that most of the children were safe. Our project’s next step is to seek out the families and children they work with, to bring them to safety, ensure they are sheltered, fed, and out of danger. As the number of homeless rise, Voice of Children will be able to aid and comfort those who have already lost so much. After this historic earthquake, the work of Voice of Children will become even more important than before.

In disasters, children suffer the most. Children, separated from their parents, families, and friends, surrounded by a society struggling to regroup and rebuild, face additional risks of abuse and trafficking. Childhood’s goal is to ensure that no child should face any abuse. Now is the critical time for our work with the people of Nepal. They need our help.

Our partner organizations in Nepal know the people who live there and know their needs. Their commitment to their communities is unwavering and will remain in place long after the media spotlight has shifted. In the following days and weeks, they will need to repair and return to their hard work. Now they need your support.
 

 

Charlotte Brandin, Executive Director USA

The World’s Children Live Here, Too

Right now there is a teenager riding the 4 subway train through New York City, wondering where to go. Her mother kicked her out because she is pregnant. Her teacher told her to drop out of school. Her boyfriend won’t speak to her. She is vulnerable. Nestled between you and me on our train home from work, her belly is too small for us to notice. She feels invisible. But she has rights, and she is not alone.

There are youth facing the challenges of pregnancy, abuse, neglect, violence, isolation, poor education and limited healthcare all over the world. There are young people who need support, resources and skills to realize their own potential in every community.

Inwood House has served young women like her in New York City for 183 years and knows she needs hope, guidance, protection and support to change her trajectory. As a grantee of World Childhood Foundation USA, Inwood House is also not alone. Our partnership bridges work in New York with similar efforts across the USA and the world. Our shared commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child — the belief that every child, no matter the challenges they have faced, or they face now, has the right to “develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity” — is fundamental to our work.

As a long-time partner organization of World Childhood Foundation USA, Inwood House is part of this community of organizations offering effective services for the most marginalized children in New York and across the nation. This April, Childhood convened grantees doing this work in their communities across the USA to share experiences, network and ask together: How do we recognize and foster the rights for all children? How do we ensure a better tomorrow for our city and our country and our communities? The grantees’ work shared at the event demonstrated the value of investing in enriching young people’s lives and how much more effective it can be than trying to “repair” adults.

If this young woman on the 4 subway train makes her way to Inwood House, her well-being will be the first consideration. She will have access to services through the Continuum of Care providing safe housing in a residence, academic support and a counselor to help her build her goals and her confidence in her strengths and talents. She will be able to develop stronger relationship skills, and improve her mental, reproductive and physical health. She will gain tools to build or mend her relationship with her family members and the community. And, she will get parenting guidance, exposing her to experiences she may otherwise never have had.

Teen pregnancy has been a core focus of Inwood House since 1830, but the heart of our work is a focus on empowerment, not pregnancy. Inwood House believes young people deserve the chance to succeed — no matter the nature of their circumstances. Young parents and their babies do not have to fulfill the statistics that predict extreme struggle and dependency. Youth surviving trauma, abuse, disenfranchisement, violence or other symptoms of poverty do not need to be defined by these difficulties. Programs builds on young people’s strengths to help them get knowledge, tools and resources to make responsible decisions and become a positive force in their communities.

The programs Childhood supports around the world aim at preventing teenage parenting, but when it happens, to be there as a source of strength and support. Childhood is committed to investing in innovation and replication of models to prevent harm to children. Inwood House is helping youth realize their dreams. Together we are partners in giving all children a childhood.

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This article has been co-authored by Charlotte Brandin, Executive Director, World Childhood Foundation USA & Linda Lausell Bryant, PhD, Executive Director of Inwood House. The article was published in The Huffington Post Blog June 14, 2013.

Inwood House helps teens take charge of their lives and become healthy, self-reliant adults. By providing a wide range of services to K-12 students, pregnant and parenting teens and their children in New York and New Jersey, Inwood House improves life-long outcomes for thousands of youth from vulnerable communities. Programs develop youth as whole people by supporting their health, mental health, education, family & community relationships, self-esteem, personal goals and talents, employability and ability to evaluate and make choices. Inwood House is a source of hope, guidance and opportunity. Learn more: inwoodhouse.com, on facebook.com/Inwood.house and on twitter @inwoodhouse.