Sopheaktra Mao is a Project Officer for Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Actively working all over the city, he aims to support every community that he can reach.
Home to the world famous Angkor Wat, the city of Siem Reap received millions of tourists before the COVID-19 pandemic. With travellers visiting the area, local children are at risks of exploitation through the industry. Sopheaktra is supporting his team to support victims and raise awareness, “I provide psychosocial support through counselling to vulnerable children who are victims and I work to promote understanding of sexual exploitation and abuse among parents and children.
Sopheaktra is part of the Working Activities Together for Children (WATCH) programme which aims to provide victims with counselling sessions and to bring attention to the issues in the community by working with local authorities and other non-governmental organisations.
Sopheaktra’s team is very small, with only two staff focusing community awareness raising and another two on providing support to victims. Despite such challenges, his team’s capacity has seen progress.
"They became more active in protecting vulnerable kids and increased their understanding of how to take action" Sopheaktra continued.
As the WATCH programme comes to an end in 2021, Sopheaktra hopes to see a brighter future for children in Siem Reap. He said, “I hope to see that children in my community are able to protect themselves while their parents and authorities help prevent risks that put them in bad situations”.
As COVID-19 restricted many people’s work around the world, Sopheaktra and his team found ways to continue. He added, “We still recruit volunteers from villages and support them to stop sexual exploitation and abuse through social media and we also continued providing psychosocial counselling via phone calls to child victims. We have also provided hygiene materials, food, and education materials to vulnerable children and their families”.
Too often sex offenders who assault children in Asia walk away without prosecution. Local police forces often do not have the capacity to investigate these cases and collecting evidence can be very hard. This is why Terre des Hommes trains private detectives to track down Western and local child sex offenders, so that children can grow up in a safer environment. This approach is based on the succesfull method of projectpartner APLE in Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, India and Nepal. This project, named Project WATCH (Working Actively Together for Children), is supported by the Nationale Postcode Loterij.