Kailyan Mith program Siem Reap; part of the ChildSafe Network
Visiting Cambodia can be a life-changing experience. Two things that visitors remember are the amazing archaeological treasures and the Cambodian people. Their warm, friendly personalities truly leave a lasting impression-as do their touching stories. Today, there is no story more important to tell than the growing number of children living in poverty.
Siem Reap, with its proximity to the temples of Angkor, has developed into a major tourism center in Cambodia. In 2013, Cambodia saw 4.2 million tourists and over half of these visitors arrived through Siem Reap. This recent growth in tourism has brought a good deal of wealth to the city, which has led a growing number of impoverished families to move to the city from surrounding villages in hopes of a better life. Often unprepared and with few employable skills, the hope for economic opportunities has instead increased the number of children, families, and mothers with small babies begging or selling souvenirs to tourists on the streets and around the temples.
To respond to these challenges, Avalon, in partnership with Tourism Cares, is proud to help fund the ChildSafe Network. Initiated by Friends-International, this powerful, proven program enlists the tourism community, both local and international, to support the welfare, advancement, and safety of children.
In Siem Reap, the ChildSafe Network is run by the Friends-International program Kaliyan Mith, which offers a comprehensive range of services and projects. This includes outreach to children and youth living on the streets, providing a safe space for young people through drop-in centers, an educational center and school re-integration, vocational training and employment for youth and their parents, and the provision of temporary accommodation through a transitional home. The program also includes awareness-raising campaigns where child begging is especially prominent as well as a 24/7 ChildSafe Emergency Hotline.
Avalon is a firm believer in this mission. Education is the key-not only for the children but for all visitors, and we do all we can to ensure that the begging lifestyle is not promoted on our journeys that visit Siem Reap and the rest of Asia.