Kids Causes in Cambodia

Kids Selling Souvenirs at AngkorThey’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.


Angkor Wat

 Reader Chris of Are We There Yet? left a comment a few weeks back:

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, we’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.

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4 thoughts on “Kids Causes in Cambodia

  1. This is fantastic. I have worked on child labor issues for my job and really appreciate what you are doing. I also love Cambodia – my Dad was posted there for 2 years and still goes back 2 to 3 times a year.

    PS Me, envy-producing? Are you sure you have the right person? I am the one with the broken garden….:)

  2. That’s wonderful that you’re taking action to help the kids in Cambodia. I haven’t been there, but I went to Thailand 2 years ago and saw the same heartbreaking situation there. I have the image of a few specific kids burned in my memory:

    One little guy was lying on the ground, in a position that looks like “child’s pose” in yoga, with his outstretched arms holding a tin can with coins. He looked so desperate, dirty and hopeless that it was heartbreaking.

    Another little guy was the opposite: he didn’t seem to realize how bad his situation was, or if he did, he didn’t let it show. He had little harmonica-like instrument that he played while hopping around dancing. I wondered how long until his happy little spirit would be broken.

    I’m glad to see that you’re doing something about the poverty you saw. Way to go!

  3. I know it’s an old post, but goodness knows I hope those kids are getting a better lot in life after 5 years. I’ve been living in Asia teaching and working with kids of all ages for nearly a decade now. It’s been a rewarding, frustrating, joyous, and depressing experience. I’ve moved on to more of a design and administrative role in my local teaching industry, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those kids.

    Which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see those little ones wandering the street. Sure, here in Taipei kids are often in school for 12 hours a day, but it’s saddening to see these kids skipping an education just to scrounge together enough money to live. If my situation every changes here to free me of family obligations, I would definitely like to go in person. As is, I’ll just check out the charities you suggested. Thanks so much for the post!

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