Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Street kids' NGO faces funding crisis

Street kids' NGO faces funding crisis

Street kids' NGO faces funding crisis

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

project.

"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

of Friends."

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

hairs."

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