I have been fundraising for a World Vision Child Rescue centre in Cambodia. Around $20,000 was raised through my CDs, and generous businesses- you can read more HERE. Anyway, this World Vision Overseas Experience opportunity came up where I would be able to see where the money went and last month I visited Cambodia! I wondered what Child Rescue would look like? When I arrived in Cambodia, surprisingly there was no Child Rescue centre! I felt a bit worried about where the money went! I was assured my questions would be answered.
Visiting the World Vision Office
I visited the World Vision office and the workers were pretty much all Cambodian. I learned that World Vision had been operating in Cambodia for around 50 years and that during the reign of Pol Pot in the 1970’s, tragically over a million people died in the genocide, including World Vision workers. When Pol Pot’s reign came to an end in 1979, World Vision was the only aid organisation that had permission to operate in Cambodia. At this time the Cambodians desperately needed medical care, so World Vision’s focus was on helping in hospitals.
I met the leader of Child Protection, who was lovely. She said when I started fundraising, the Child Rescue centre did exist, but since then had closed. The centre was needed in the past, and World Vision funds paid for the running costs. However, recently the Cambodian government had provided a building, which World Vision could use as a centre. It made sense, I mean why use financial resources on paying rent for a centre, when another government funded building was available?
What does Child Rescue Look Like?
I was taken on a tour to see the work of Child Rescue. We visited a Community Child Protection group at a temple, consisting of a nurse, teacher, policeman and village leader. Was empowering this community group Child Rescue? They told us stories of how they were banding together to arrest child abusers, so the answer was yes! Outside, a scruffy looking boy aged about nine started begging from us. I felt sorry for him, and gave him a bottle of water, which he guzzled.
Next we visited Chantha, a father of eight, disabled by a land mine. His family lived on the city streets for over a decade! They survived by collecting scrap metal and cashing it in to buy money for food! Remember, there is no Centrelink in Cambodia! World Vision assessed Chantha’s situation and discovered he would be a good fit for running a small business. They organised training and now he works as a motor repairer and sells chickens. His family have a home and his children go to school! Was teaching business skills really Child Rescue? Well, his eight kids were off the street, so I guess it was!
Street Kids Program
In the evening we went to visit the street kids program. I was half expecting to come across a child brothel or something. Apparently years ago you might openly see that sort of thing, but it was no longer acceptable. A group of kids were sitting on a tarp and teenagers were telling a story. The World Vision supervisor explained that these were street kids, and the older kids taught the younger kids how to be safe on the street by sticking together. They ran this program four nights a week, and fed and clothed the children.
Suddenly a boy rushed up to me and gave me the biggest hug! I was caught off guard, hugged him back, and then recognised him as the boy who I had given the bottle of water to earlier on! The World Vision worker explained that this boy lived on the street with his brother, because their parents were in jail for trafficking drugs. He looked the same age as my nine year old son Kale, and I felt really sad. The worker also said that the way they survive is by begging for money to buy food. I knew I had done the right thing by giving him water. I saw another boy who reminded me of my son Elijah, who was kicking a ball around. The World Vision worker said he was four and lived on the street with his mum.
I was very impressed with the World Vision worker who knew absolutely everything about each child. There was a teenage street boy who went to school everyday, and he dreamed of becoming a doctor. Another young woman didn’t know how old she was. Several organisations had tried to help her find employment but she was too mentally damaged, and survived by begging for food. I felt so sorry for her. Another boy was on the street but his parents had been locked up. Basically the government arrested a bunch of street people about six months ago and locked them up in a building, under guard, to get them off the street. There were 200 kids in this building and one toilet! It was like a prison!
The one hour program ended, and the children scuttled off in to the night. The World Vision worker said they may be closing the street kids program in order to focus on advocacy, for example, by ensuring the government at least provide more toilets and medical care, for the street people locked in the centre. I sat at the back of the van on the way home and had an emotional meltdown! I was shocked and devastated!
Make a Difference
I had seen where the money went. World Vision responded to Cambodia’s needs with medical care in the 1970’s, and continues to help the most vulnerable people today. These kids no longer need a Child Rescue centre, they need advocacy and for someone to stand up for their rights. If you’d like to help make a difference, you can sign up to sponsor a child HERE. I don’t receive any commission for this, I’m just passionate about making a difference and have been supporting World Vision since I was a kid doing the 40 Hour Famine, and continue to support this amazing organisation to this day!