May 20 2012

Buy from adults, not street kids in Cambodia

Published by at 3:06 pm under Shopping


As you walk the streets, or drink and dine in Siem Reap you will at some stage undoubtedly be petitioned by children and adult male landmine victims to buy books or, in the case of the kids, postcards, jewellery or flowers. This post is not just a request to not buy anything from the children, but also a strong call to please buy from the adults.

Welcome to Cambodia - don't forget to read the small print

Welcome to Cambodia -- don't forget to read the small print.

The thing is this: visitors who buy from street children, or simply give them money, perpetuate a system that keeps the children out of school (though they are trained to tell you that they do go to school), and ensures that they, and their children, will remain in poverty for the rest of their lives. Children selling on the streets make more than the dozens of excellent NGOs can give to support families in need, so it becomes an easy option in which the child’s future is sacrificed. In a horrifying new turn for Cambodia, a recent report in the Phnom Penh Post highlighted how parents in Poipet are breaking their own children’s limbs in order to increase their “value” as beggars. It could only be a matter of time before such a practice emigrates to Siem Reap.

On top of that, while working on the streets, children are exposed to the dangers of drugs, trafficking and sexual predators. No matter how compassionate it may seem, giving to or buying from children perpetuates an act of cruelty. It takes strength to say no to them, but when weighed against the dangers it is a strength I’m sure we all can find.

You will be helping more than one child by buying from Phoeung and his associates

You will be helping more than one child by buying from Phoeung and his associates.

If you would like to do something to really help Cambodians instead of giving to or buying from street kids, then there are alternatives. For example, each time you find yourself tempted to buy from a kid on the street, please put aside the money you would have given, and then go to visit the offices of ConCERT, an organisation with many extraordinary roles, one of which is collecting donations on behalf of a number of registered local NGOs who are required to meet certain standards of accountability, management and child safety. ConCERT transfers 100% of any donations it receives and can also provide guidance on which organisation you’d most like to support.

Another option is to buy instead from the adult landmine victims, even if they’re not as cute or charming or able to ingeniously apply the most fascinating psychological mind-games as the kids. Through organised books sales, they have been given an opportunity to earn an income that would normally be denied to them as a result of their injuries, and this is vital to their families and to the maintenance of their dignity following a devastating event.

Think Twice - then tell your friends

Think twice -- then tell your friends.

This is the premise behind the local Think Twice campaign whose posters and flyers call on us to “Help adults to earn and children to learn”. I’m asking you to do more than that: tell everyone you meet on your travels the same thing too and help them to get the message across. Be an ambassador for the future of Cambodia’s children.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Buy from adults, not street kids in Cambodia”

  1. Swampgumon 21 May 2012 at 3:19 am

    Just arrived in siem reap and I’m really grateful for this post. The kids herecertainly know how to work us. Great post guys.

  2. […] tourists stopped buying the baby milk — and stopped buying postcards or trinkets from them, or paying them to dance way past midnight in Pub Street — then eventually this kind of […]

  3. cattoyon 23 Mar 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I just came across this TRAVELFISH from browsing the sites re: se asia. What does NGO mean? I am departing Michigan USA for se asia in 3 weeks. Everything is so helpful on this site.

    Unfortunately I started with “things I hate about cambodia’ instead of on an UPBEAT note. but I feel I got an education and now know how to act (as far as ignoring the tuk tuk drivers & peddlers & such). I will consider them to be just part of the culture.

    I will be spending most of my time in Singapore but since I am such a fussy eater. I know :( I dont look forward to eating anywhere on this trip. I will stock up on protein bars to eat when in doubt.

    the cattoy

  4. Samantha Brownon 24 Mar 2013 at 7:02 am

    NGO means non-government organisation! Have a good trip!

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