Education Key to Alleviating Child Trafficking in Cambodia

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | posted by Global Playground News |
Last January, Global Playground had the opportunity to visit the Sao Sary Foundation ("SSF"), located an hour's drive outside of Cambodia's capitol city of Phnom Penh. SSF was founded in 2006 to "help improve the living standard of the poorest of the poor and vulnerable families . . . and to develop support for the education of orphans and other vulnerable children." The ultimate goal of SSF is to ensure that vulnerable children are kept safe from all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse, especially child trafficking. This was also the lifelong goal of the foundation's namesake, Sao Sary, deputy chief of Takeo province in Kus commune, who was gunned down after intervening in a robbery.

SSF runs a house where students live so they can attend school, develop skills, and generally be in a safer environment than they might otherwise be in their own homes. Children at SSF are considered those particularly susceptible to being trafficked, such as those who have been trafficked before, who live well below the poverty line, or who come from single-parent households or families with physical disabilities and low earning potential. In addition, the beauty of a child and lack of access to education also make a child a likely target for trafficking.

To contribute to their keep and to support SSF, the girls who live at SSF spend hours on end making hundreds of elaborate flowers fashioned out of metal rods and colorful nylon, which are then sold at market for use in weddings or other ceremonies. But not all of the organization's work is at the home itself--much of what the organization does extends into the community. Global Playground saw SSF's outreach efforts firsthand when it toured the Cambodian countryside and visited with several of the families that SSF is helping. One family consisted of a single mother and her daughter who were living in a dilapidated structure, but because the home had no walls the daughter was in constant danger of abduction and trafficking given her beauty. SSF is rebuilding the home. In other cases, SSF teaches families how to run a business and provides them with startup capital to do so. For example, SSF taught one mother whom Global Playground visited how to raise fish and grow rice and morning glories (a marketable vegetable in Cambodia) so that she could keep her family out of poverty and her daughters safe.

Global Playground visited SSF to better understand the importance of bolstering education in Cambodia. Board member Doug Smith stated, "Part of the reason Global Playground is operating in Cambodia is because there is child trafficking and education is a means to alleviate it." Although SSF's goal is not education alone, Global Playground does see education as the ultimate preventative measure. "If kids are in school and gaining education to allow them to enter jobs successfully and earn decent income, then trafficking is not as serious of a risk," said board member Doug Bunch.

During its visit, Global Playground purchased the entire inventory of the girls' nylon flowers and will sell them at Global Playground's March 27 event in Washington, DC at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

-Jennifer Rinker

To read the profile of one of the families SSF is helping and to view pictures from Global Playground's visit with the family, click here.