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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Street kids offered new hope

Street kids offered new hope

S TREET kids in Phnom Penh now have an alternative place to live with the formation of Little Friends a non-profit organization set up by expats.

The idea came about when seven people who had been feeding street children living around the New Market, met up by chance and realized it would be more beneficial to pool resources and form an NGO.

Mark Turgesen, an American that has been living in Asia for several years said "At first we were just feeding the kids but then we realized we had to get them away from the environment they where living in, earn their trust.

"A lot of the children are orphans or just abandoned, they make there living by begging or stealing parts off vehicles, some sell papers etc. The worrying thing is that a lot of these children are prostituting themselves out, sometimes to foreigners for just a few dollars."

So renting a house near the Russian Market they have been steadily trying to lure the children away from the area, success has not come easily though. A lot of the children have drifted back but some have stayed and their numbers are growing.

Albert King, business partner of the 77 ice-cream parlor that sits alongside the Central Market said "The children usually sleep outside on cardboard mats, our aim is to give them an education and some self respect. If we don't get to them soon it will be to late.

"Most of the children's ages range from 6 to 14, after a while they drift into prostitution or some of the older children recruit them into gangs that steal and extort."

The center, at Streets 163 and 408, operating under the borrowed license of "Enfants Du Mekong" is run by a former street kid himself Kim Chhean Roth. Under the care of the French NGO he passed his high school certificate and now oversees and teaches the children.

The center's aim is to provide shelter, wholesome meals, to give free medical assistance, to give them a basic education so they can join regular school, to instruct them in personal hygiene and give them love and a family atmosphere.

All funding is through donations, the center runs on just $1,000 a month. Donations can be made to: Little Friends, PO Box 588, Phnom Penh, or through the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia, account number 30400808.

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