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.

Susanne Drakborg, Country Manager Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland & Ukraine

Transcarpatia

Transcarpatia. The name sounds exotic, like the long-lost land of a fairytale. Transcarpatia refers to a province in southwestern Ukraine as well as a historic region which stretches into the neighbouring countries. Spending time in Transcarpatia you will hear Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian and Romanian spoken. Childhood is funding three projects in Transcarpatia. One of them – Centre for children’s rights – is run by the organisation Dolia, founded by orphanage graduates. Dolia is a small organisation in Uzhgorod with a unique experience and great motivation. It is inspiring to see how they grow and are helping improve children’s lives.

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Oleksandr “Sasha” Shelevyi, Director of Dolia (with sandbox therapy being prepared in the background).

/Susanne Drakborg

 

Joel Borgström, Country Manager Cambodia, China, Nepal & Thailand

Partner organisation Peuan Peuan launching new shop in Bangkok

On Friday November 1, one of Childhood’s partner organisations in Thailand is finally opening a shop in Bangkok. Peuan Peuan (Good friends) focuses on protecting and reintegrating children and youth on the streets of Bangkok. Childhood has for the last four years supported their outreach work in squatter areas, street outreach, a multilingual hotline and work in the government shelters where arrested street children are placed.

The children Peuan Peuan meet come from different countries, have different backgrounds and meet different obstacles in leaving the high risk environment on the streets of Bangkok. An experience most share, however, is the breakdown of the household. Peuan Peuan’s ambition is to reintegrate children when possible and is therefore also working to strengthen families by helping them boost incomes.

Since 2009, Peuan Peuan has offered caretakers a concrete opportunity to earn an income by producing design products that are sold in shops, restaurants and hotels. To further increase sales a plan to open a shop similar to those in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap has been in the pipeline for a few years. Opening a shop in Bangkok has proved challenging, however, not least due to the high rents but also due to the size of Bangkok with tourists scattered over town. It is therefore very promising that the Friends ‘n’ Stuff shop is now finally ready to open in the Sukhumvit area of downtown Bangkok. The same building also contains offices and a training centre where targeted family members will be given initial training in the production process. Following this, participants will produce a certain number of products per week thus receiving an income.

Make sure to visit the shop on your next visit in Bangkok. The address is: 3/8 Soi Sukhumvit 49, Sukhumvit Rd (BTS Thong Lo).

/Joel

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The training center above the shop

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The shop was not quite ready during Childhood’s visit in September