A NEW centre for street children has been providing breakfast for more than 100 youngsters daily since opening its doors in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district last week, its director said Sunday.
Ngauv Chhiv, director of the Kitchen for Children, said the centre caters to children who are orphaned or are from poor families, all of whom live or work on the streets and are rarely able to eat breakfast or access basic healthcare.
“My centre opened a breakfast service for all street children, and they also have the chance to take a shower, read books and have a health check before they go to work,” he said.
Though the centre currently serves only breakfast and closes at midday, Ngauv Chhiv said its services would be extended to include other meals if it can secure the necessary funding.
Ngauv Chhiv said children aged between 2 and 14 typically begin arriving at 6:30am for a breakfast of rice, noodles, soup and fruit. “I provide them with breakfast because I think that it is the best meal for all people to have energy to work,” he said, adding that he was not aware of any other organisations currently providing this service for street children in Phnom Penh.
Ngauv Chhiv said the centre also offers morning classes educating street children about how to stay safe and “to be a good person” because the children’s parents are either absent or too busy working to advise them. “After they finish eating, we also teach them how to protect themselves from bad things such as thieves, rape and HIV/AIDS,” he said. “I do that because I am afraid of them walking the wrong way; they will easily become bad people if we don’t help them when they are still young.”
Street children make up perhaps the most vulnerable population group in the capital. According to the 2007 Street Children Profile from the NGO Friends International, there are between 1,000 and 1,500 children living on the streets, and up to 20,000 children working on the streets in Phnom Penh.
Phoung Kiri, 24, a cook at the Kitchen for Children, said Sunday that she understands how difficult life is for street children because she was orphaned as a young child herself. “I really pity them when I see their faces, and it pushes me to help them and want to cook for them without feeling tired,” she said.