There are many issues facing children leaving NGO care in Cambodia. These include having to be independent at a young age, low levels of educational achievement, high unemployment rates, unstable career patterns, common early parenthood and widespread high levels of emotional disturbance. The effects of these problems can lead to prostitution and dependency upon yama, the Cambodian equivalent of Crystal Meth but laced with lithium and mercury. Prostitution in the region is a serious problem, with lots of ‘massage parlours’ catering to international and local needs. At university I came across the group Golden Futures, and I have since taken up the position as Group Leader for the project. We aim to help young people coming out of NGO care in Phnom Penh start their own business or go to university through a microfinance scheme.
Although several of the children living in the orphanage had at least one family member around for them NGO care is often the best place for them. One girl in my class, Taimo, had a history of running away from the orphanage back to her mother. Her mother was, however, incapable of looking after her due to a history of violence and lack of money. Children in NGO care are usually the lucky ones; Tiamo gets 3 meals a day, an education, free English lessons and clothing. Some of the other orphanages in the city are not as stable as the one Golden Futures supports. One in particular suffers due to a lack of consistent investors and corrupt managers. With many students heading to Thailand for full-moon parties galore, Cambodia is often a neglected country in the South-East Asia region. However, after understanding the issues currently facing the nation and its horrific past, it’s too difficult not to get involved.
Tania Jumnoodoo and Chloë Painter