In Cambodia I visited an NGO that reaches out to vulnerable kids in slum neighborhoods mostly located north of Phnom Penh. This NGO schools poor and vulnerable children and also provides vocational training for young adults. These kids come from what you would call extremely “high risk” families and communities. Many are from families of illegal Vietnamese immigrants and thus some cannot even speak K’mai. They live directly in Phnom Penh’s worst communities; they are surrounded by drug dealers and sex workers. Their mothers mainly earn money selling themselves. It was confusing and disheartening to realize this and to become distanced from not only my growing optimism but also some of the more progressive, energetic, and thriving Cambodia that I’d been somewhat gated by. However it really is astonishing how much of a difference organizations like this can make — not only in the kids’ future but in the community as well. Because the children have transformed into beings with polite manners, more developed brains, and a purpose other than just collecting trash, they’ve inspired their parents to change too — seeing the children through and overall nourishing them with a healthier family life.
– Bridget T., Service-learning volunteer abroad in Cambodia