Our home should be the safest place for us. It should be a place where we can rest and take care of our physical and mental health. This is not the case for families in vulnerable places.
Take Ven, a 15-year-old child from Siem Reap, Cambodia. He lives in a slum area in the city. His father had left his family without contact. His older brother was arrested for possession of drugs. His mother and abusive stepfather encouraged him to join them as a knife sharpener and a garbage collector. For Ven, a safe home was more of a dream than a reality.
Being from a poor household, Ven did not have many opportunities. He was vulnerable to many threats as his neighbourhood was a place for drug addition, sexual abuse, gambling, school drop-outs, beggers, and domestic violence. This environment had pushed Ven into beggin due to the influence of his friends.
Siem Reap is a tourist attraction due to its ancient temples. Thousands of tourists flocked the area before COVID-19 and it continues to be an area for foreigners to live in. With this, Ven was exposed to foreigners who may have more money to give to him, along with clothes and food. Unfortunately, this led to him being sexually abused by a foreigner.
“I felt scared and wondered what would happen after it happened, I thought the police would arrest me. I might go to prison. I thought that foreigners are very good to children because they always give some money, food, and clothes, and sometimes they give smartphones to play games”, Ven cried.
In January 2020, Ven was referred by APLE, a Terre des Hommes Netherlands partner that focus on child protection in Cambodia. Hee was identified as a victim of sexual exploitation. Within 24 hours after the referral, Terre des Hommes’ social worker under the WATCH programme visited him to assess his situation.
Ven was provided with physiological support, food, hygiene materials, and school supplies. He was also educated about the risks of begging and sexual health. His family situation was resolved after the social workers provided counselling to the parents, especially the mother on her feelings about domestic violence and the importance of maintaining good relationships between children and parents.
He was referred to the Feeding Dream Organization for a scholarship to study English, and to receive vocational training to be a hairdresser.
Ven added, “I want to be a hairdresser and earn money to support myself and my family. If I have a lot of money, I want to provide meals to other children living along the streets, including my friends. I want to tell them not to live in the streets like this and think about their future. It is really good if they have proper jobs to support themselves”.
“I have made a lot of progress. I am braver than before, and I am really happy to get psychological support. I feel very good and I sleep well at night”. he ended. Ven now have a safe home, just like many other children in Cambodia.