The ChildSafe network is an innovative initiative started by one of the World Childhood Foundation’s partners in Cambodia – Friends International – in 2005. Bridging the gap between information and awareness to taking action, the initiative is now a part of the activities of our partner organisations in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap in Cambodia and in Bangkok, Thailand.
ChildSafe member in Aranyaprathet on the Thai border
The initiative is based on the experience that children are put at risk when communities turn a blind eye or facilitate violations. Key people in a specific community are therefore chosen and given training on how to recognize children at risk, dangerous situations and how they can act to prevent abuse. A broad range of actors inside the communities are involved, for instance taxi drivers, hotels, restaurants and shop owners. After the training the participants receive a diploma and stickers they can use to display that they are “ChildSafe”. Their duty is from then on to report any suspected abuse to the hotline number of Childhood’s partner organization or intervene when a dangerous situation is developing in their area. In this way, the initiative also hopes to increase incentives for small- and large businesses to attract conscious travelers. Each year a “refresher training” takes place to make sure that the ChildSafe members are given information about emerging trends concerning child abuse.
Other parts of the initiative include hotline numbers that can be called when abuse is suspected, information material and child safe merchandise that is produced as one of the organisations’ vocational training. ChildSafe is thereby closely linked to the broad range of services that the participating organisations can provide to vulnerable children. Since one of the target groups are travelers, the information material also includes how to travel responsibly.
Go to the homepages of the ChildSafe Network, M’Lop Tapang (Sihanoukville) and Friends International (South-East Asia) for more information.
Information and merchandise for sale in a ChildSafe hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia
ChildSafe Tuk-Tuk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Hotline number targeting tourists in Sihanoukville
Are you going to Cambodia? Want to try some delicious food and at the same time support a good cause? It is easy. There are actually several options… I happened to be in Siem Reap the day of the official opening of Kalyan Mith’s new training restaurant for former street kids, youth released from prison and former drug users. When I write those words, I understand if the image you get in your head is not a high quality restaurant in a beautiful building and a top class kitchen. But actually, that is exactly what it is.
Kalyan Mith’s new training restaurant for former street kids, youth released from prison and former drug users.
Students in the kitchen during the official opening of Kalyan Mith’s training restaurant
This is the fifth restaurant of the same kind opened by Friends International and its networking partners. The previous ones have not only become tourist attractions and well known for its food & hospitality (and not for “helping children in difficult situations”). They have also become a stable source of income both for the organization and the youth. And finally, it turns out that other restaurant owners and hotel managers are more than eager to employ youth trained at these restaurants, not because they want to help them but because they are considered a well-skilled and reliable work force. In short, it is a win-win-win situation.
Of course, it takes a lot of courage, know-how and hard work to invest and succeed in this kind of adventure. But I believe the most important factor for success is that Friends has always aimed for the best quality and has not settled for the “good enough” even though the restaurants are “only” for children from very difficult circumstances.
The restaurant opened by M’lop Tapang, also supported by Childhood, in April is actually already number one on trip advisor for restaurants in the tourist resort Sihanoukville. See: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g325573-d2621228-Reviews-Sandan-Sihanoukville.html
The other restaurants have also received very good ratings on different web-sites. For Friends International Restaurants see: http://www.friends-international.org/shop/restaurants.asp
Photo: Britta Holmberg