Student documents plight of Cambodian street children

Student documents plight of Cambodian street children
By: Clayton Norlen
Issue date: 7/30/07 Section: News

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, it is common for children living on the streets to beg, sell books, offer shoeshines or fall into the sex trade just to survive.

David Alder, a junior film major, traveled to Cambodia this summer alongside amateur filmmakers Alisa Garcia and Maera Grove to document the condition of these street children. The documentary focuses on what the organization Child Safe is doing to improve the situation of homeless children in Cambodia.

Alder described scenes in Cambodia where young children between the ages of six and 17 would carry around infants, rented from mothers, to aid in their begging.

“Filming this documentary made me look at my immense privilege with my many resources here in the (United) States,” Alder said.

Street children are also at risk of ending up exploited in the sex trade by gang members or other adults who sell them to pedophiles.

According to the documentary, there are currently 24,000 children living on the streets in Cambodia.

Childsafe.org explains that the money tourists give to children who are begging or selling items doesn’t help the situation because children are still on the streets and not in school. The money children make is often split between gangs they may be involved with or given back to the family members and bullies who sent them to work on the streets.

“Tourists are unaware that they are contributing to the problems with street children by giving money to children directly,” Garcia said. “Tourists are adding to the problem because they feel guilty or want the children to go away.”

The documentary captures the everyday scenes of children living in the streets in Phnom Penh and Child Safe’s efforts to educate locals and tourists.

The organization says children are put at risk and into abusive situations in Phnom Penh because communities facilitate or ignore the signs of abuse. Child Safe works with community members to teach them ways to protect and educate children living on the streets in their areas.

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