“Street children are the thermometer of the economic and social situation of a country. Friends strives to support and empower street children, and in the long term, to diminish the risks to children, with the help of key sectors in the communities. We believe that this approach can move the work with street children and vulnerable populations away from charity and toward real development that will benefit societies at large.”
Sub-Issues: Early Childhood to Primary Education; Livelihoods; Youth Job Skills Short-term assistance is not enough for street children. The problem requires attention at many levels: prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
The Skoll Awardee: 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 merely kept them living on the streets. He started Mith Samianh (“Friends” in Khmer) to offer shelter, medical care and education, reintegrating children with family, school and work. 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 through two key programs: ChildSafe, which involves local leaders and tourists in prevention, and The Street Children Network, which makes effective services available — vocational training, protection, and social services, as well as job placement in the Friends Social Businesses network. Services are delivered through Friends programs, an alliance of partners, and the ChildSafe global community protection network. At the time of the Award, Friends-International was active in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, and Honduras, and had reached more than half a million children in those countries, providing some 12,000 with ongoing assistance.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:
- Direct provision of services to 15,000 children each year in Cambodia.
- Services to 50,000 young people each year in eight countries in Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Across Asia, the ChildSafe Network has more than 4,000 members: community and government organizations, hotels and other local businesses whose employees are trained to identify a child at risk and respond appropriately.
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