They’re everywhere, all day long. They’ve got plastic baskets of bracelets, strings of origami fish folded out of silk scraps, little handbags, cheap photocopies of guidebooks, postcards, postcards, postcards. You see them at 6 in the morning and at 11 at night. You think they should be in bed, at school, on the playground… at an early morning breakfast in the Angkor Complex, I watched an 11(ish) year old boy go back and forth between taking orders and selling souvenirs while his much smaller brother focused on moving the postcard inventory. “You buy. Ten for one dollar. 1..2..3..4..”
I asked our guide why they weren’t in school. “Later,” he said. “They work in the early morning, then they go to school.” This might have been true of these particular kids, but everywhere we went, all day long, we saw children working the streets.
It’s been almost two years since we visited Cambodia — I still think about the temples often, but I think about those heartbreakingly sweet, cute kids every day. Since our return, weâ€™ve done a lot of research on organizations helping them. If you’re ever curious, feel free to contact me for info.
Yesterday he sent me a list of kids causes in Cambodia so again, if you’d like to help out, here are a few links and descriptions. From Chris’ mail, slightly edited:
We sponsor a child through the Cambodian Children’s Fund. It’s been a great experience. Although it may look like one of those generic Sally Struthers “save the children” kinda things, we’ve had fantastic contact with our sponsor child. The guy who runs it is a former Hollywood exec with an interesting story. We also saw it profiled on a few travel shows. But, the factor that put us over the top is that the author/activist Loung Ung supports the charity. We read “First They Killed My Father” after returning from Cambodia– it’s an amazing (even if depressing) book. She also lists several other good ways to support Cambodia on her site.
Prior to getting involved with CCF, we were trying to sponsor a child through A New Day Cambodia which is a similar organization based out of Chicago. From our dealings with ANDC, we have no doubt it’s an honest and worthwhile organization. It sounds like they’ll be ready to place more children in the next few months.
Lastly, I recently stumbled across the Ponheary Ly foundation. Ponheary was actually our guide in Siem Reap, and it was obvious from the start how much she cared and gave back to her community. She took us to visit a poor, rural school to donate supplies and it was one of the best and most memorable travel experiences we’ve ever had. If Ponheary is involved, I have no doubt that all money donated is going to those who need it most.
We’ve also done a few small things through the hotel Shinta Mani. They have some cool community projects. For example, you can build a well for a village for a very small sum (at least it seems a small sum for a well). We just kind of took it on faith that the money went where they said it did, and we did get several photos documenting each of the projects we sponsored. Obviously, they could be providing everyone the same photos, but I’m much less skeptical than usual when it comes to Cambodia, so I like to think they’re doing what they say.