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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - From street living to a steady job

From street living to a steady job

CHHAN Daravuth, 19, is one of the best employees at the JRSC printing house. He has

worked there for nine months, earning 10,000 riel a week to help support his family.

"My future is in here," he declares.

Two years ago, Daravuth lived on the streets near the Central Market, and slept on

the pavement, after leaving his family.

"I lived with my parents, my aunt, my grand-mother and my sister. My parents

worked at a construction site but they did not have much money."

One day, he decided to leave, and took to the streets, hanging around with a gang

of 10-20 street children.

He did whatever he could to earn a few thousand riel, picking up occasional work

washing cars or helping in restaurants.

"It was mostly just money to eat, buy clothes or shoes. Life on the street was

not so difficult but sometimes we didn't have enough money."

Some of his friends used to go away with foreigners at night, and reappear in the

morning, he recalls. "They said that they went to hotels with the foreigner

but I never asked them what they were doing there."

Daravuth and his friends expelled four or five kids from their group. "They

were not good and committed robberies to earn money," he says. "The life

on the street is very free. But I realized that I had no future there."

Deciding to make a fresh start, he went to Little Friends on August 1, 1994. He remembers

the exact date.

"At the beginning it was difficult to lose my liberty [but] they gave me support,

they fed me. In return, I swept the floor to help the NGO."

Ten kids in his gang also went to Little Friends. The rest refused.

"I tried to convince them to come, but they chose to go back to the streets.

They didn't like to depend on an organization. They thought that they wouldn't be

free enough."

After a year living at the Little Friends house near Tuol Tum Pong market, Daravuth

started training at the printing house.

"The NGO found the job. It is not guaranteed that I will have a job in this

factory after my training is finished, but I really would like to."

Daravuth recalls that when he joined Little Friends, there were only 40 children.

Today, the NGO, now called Mith Samlanh, helps more than 300.

"It's very good for the children in the streets, they have more opportunities

to go and have food," he says.

He is adamant he will never go back to the street, even just to talk with the children

living there, saying: "I have no time."

Daravuth is now back with his family. He sometimes goes back to see the staff and

friends at the NGO center but not very often.

"They do not need me any more," he says with a smile.

" I remember when I was sitting and eating with my friends at Little Friends.

It was like a family." After a moment of silence, he adds: "I have two

families now."

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