If you give Tearfund £3 a month you will be helping keep children off the street. They’re not providing shelters, or feeding them, or caring for them on the streets of Phnom Penh.
But the work they’re doing is far more effective.
There are no shortage of organisations working in Cambodia, in most villages we’ve visited we’ve seen wells built or buildings donated. We’ve heard of ministries who’ve donated chickens, or chicken coops. And in the city there are organisations from Cambodia and overseas committed to tackling the scandal of children living and working on the street.
In 1975 Pol Pot forced the population out of the city and into the countryside, and made them work on agricultural programmes, separated from their families, fed minimal rice soup, and occasionally rice, in a regime that saw a couple of million die from disease and starvation as well as indiscriminate torture and genocide.
In recent years as the city offered hope of development, as the skyscrapers have risen high and incomes have promised hope of a life that’s beyond the dreams of many Cambodians, many villagers have been tempted by the promise and drawn to the city. Families have come hoping for advancement, and children have been sent or abandoned by families unable to provide for them.
And the streets are a place you find these children. They come into restaurants selling flowers, they’re on the corners of streets, and this is in the cleansed and sanitised tourist district. This is a tragedy and it is scandalous.
The desire to help is evident, the resources directed manifold. The variety of ways legion, and what Tearfund are doing will truly surprise you. I apologise for the upworthy style, clickbait, headline. I also apologise for the hard sell, but the work going on in Cambodia is unusual because it is not clickbait, headline grabbing, attention seeking activity.
They could join the charities working directly with the street children. They could provide care and shelter and support.
But children will still be drawn to the city by families hoping for advancement under the lure of the lights, or the disposal of a child they hope will fare better on their own than with a family struggling for food for each mouth.
Because while villagers still think that the city is a better place to be, then the problem will remain. While life in communities in rural provinces across this country fails to suffice you will still find street children in Phnom Penh.
To tackle the problem Tearfund take an axe to the root. Herry, a worker for International Cooperation Cambodia (Tearfund’s partner here), explained his vision: ‘I want to make the villages places that people love to live’.
In Zechariah, in the message version it says: “Old men and old women will come back to Jerusalem, sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes—a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing—a good city to grow up in.”
To make your home community a place to grow up in and a place to grow old in. I know that the vision that inspires Christians in Southampton, and I see that it’s inspiring Christians in Cambodia.
It’s a dream that inspires, and it’s a dream that empowers people. It refuses to give in to the tyranny of quick fixes and attractive solutions. It is committed to the long term. It is committed to working in ways that go beyond the programmes of charities or the grants of government aid. It works through people who love their villages, and churches who are staying no matter what.
This is how Tearfund is tackling the problem of street children. They are working to make villages places people want to stay, and by dealing with the root causes, doing more to make a difference than the well-meaning and good intentioned work of charities focused on the city could ever achieve.
If you want to give to Tearfund to support their work in Cambodia text HOPE TODAY to 70444 or give online at www.tearfund.org/bloggers. You can also find out about all that me and my fellow bloggers have got up to in Cambodia this week.
(Texting HOPE TODAY to 70444 will subscribe you to give £3 a month to See For Yourself, Tearfund. It will be added to your mobile phone bill and Tearfund receives 100% of the money. This subscription service will cost £3.00 per month until you send STOP to 70080.)