Well-known Phnom Penh NGO, Mith Samlanh/Friends, which offers a broad range of programs
and services for street kids, is in a precarious position after two major donors
recently had to cut their funding.
Friends' coordinator, Sébastien Marot, said the cuts were particularly worrying
as the organization needed to cope with an increasing number of street children.
"Every day we have parents and children asking to stay in our center so they
can be safe and study, and we have to reject them because we have no more space and
no more money," he said.
Marot said as Friends' funding was spread across many sources it would not have to
close completely. However, he said the shortfall meant it lacked money for three
main programs: the house where children live, the training center and the HIV/AIDS
"You can't tell these kids not to work in prostitution if you don't offer them
an alternative," he said. "Nothing makes sense if you don't have a place
for them to stay and a place for them to train. It's hitting us right at the heart
Friends, he said, was looking for donors to make up the significant shortfall: $250,000
a year for housing and training; $150,000 for the HIV/AIDS program.
Marot said one reason for the increase in street kids was the recent Phnom Penh slum
fires and subsequent forced relocation of affected families outside the city where
they lacked facilities. Travel costs meant many children had dropped out of school.
Because there were no jobs at the resettlement site, Marot said, fathers were forced
to leave their families at the site to find work in the city, returning every 10
to 15 days. Mothers were out of work because their jobs were also in the city, but
they had to remain at the site to keep the land the families had been assigned.
"The kids can't go to school as there are no schools out there, so they go into
town with their fathers to work, and [end up living] on the streets with their dads,"
said Marot. Many parents had asked Friends to take in their children, he said, all
of which increased demand just when money was tightest.
Marot said AIDS provided another reason for the increase in street kids, with
more children forced onto the streets after their parents became too sick to work.
He said current projections predicted 140,000 AIDS orphans by 2004.
"It's now we need to prepare for the influx of these children and expand our
services," he said, but with the funding crisis: "We've got a lot of gray