Sébastien Marot served in Asia with the French diplomatic corps. Returning as a traveler to Cambodia, he encountered a wrecked society where children slept in the streets. He gave them meals but soon realized that giving to child beggars kept them on the streets. He started Mith Samlanh (“Friends” in Khmer) to offer shelter, medical care and education, reintegrating children with family, school and work. Friends Cambodia encourages tourists to patronize approved businesses instead of giving to beggars. As the organization’s success attracted attention, Sébastien was attacked and targeted for assassination by gangs and pedophiles. Yet requests for help and training continued to pour in, and Sébastien transferred leadership of Friends Cambodia to an able Cambodian colleague. He now devotes his energy to Friends-International, supporting replication through two key programs: ChildSafe, which involves local leaders and tourists in prevention, and The Street Children Network, which makes effective services available to street children.
IMPACT AS OF JAN. 2014:
- Annually, Friends Programs provide services to 15,000 vulnerable children, youth and their families in Cambodia.
- Friends International now operates in eight countries in Southeast Asia and Central America, serving over 50,000 young people per year.
- In Sept. 2013, they launched social businesses in Siem Reap: mechanics, beauty shop, printing. They started a community-based school in in the city, and the first ChildSafe certified guest house in Manila.
- Its CYTI Alliance, a Friends-International initiative, is an alliance of NGOs and government services working to build coordinated good practice services for marginalized children and youth. The CYTI Alliance counts 22 partners and 14 members in 8 countries. The Alliance aims to work with Members/Affiliates in 10 target countries by 2017 and reach 150,000 individual children, youth and caretakers per year.
- The ChildSafe Network Members Project aims to be operational in a total of 7 countries by 2017
- Across Asia, the ChildSafe Network has over 4,000 members consisting of community, government, staff of hotels, tour agencies, local businesses that are trained to identify a child at risk and how to respond to protect the child.
- In 2012, 7,900 children were directly protected due to members action with thousands more children and their families provided child protection training from the ChildSafe Team.
- In 2012, 2.3 million people were exposed to a ChildSafe Traveler 7 Tips campaign message, expanding protection of the world’s children.
- The Friends Social Business is growing. Total sales and restaurant revenue was 34% of total income in 2012 (a 3% increase from 2011). Net profits in 2012 amounted to 13% of social activity costs globally in 2012. The social business model has been expanded in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos and (via partners) to Honduras.
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