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The vague start of volunteers vs. sustainable existence
05 November 2000
by Yim Sokhary

During the presence of UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) late 1992, I moved from a province to seek an UNTAC job in Phnom Penh City but I did not know English or computer and I could not even afford a course. To pass the time, I just walked along the riverside and I saw children sleeping in the open air on the roadside without sufficient clothing. Some of them got fevers and wounds due to non-guardianship. Day after day, I talked to each of them. Then I became aware that some of them ran away from home due to domestic violence. Some came with a family and became beggars or thieves. Some became working children (shoe polishers, scavengers...)... and most of all they did not have a chance to obtain proper education.

In 1993 I volunteered to teach parentless children at Child/Mother Care Centre and I also helped street children outside the centre. In the morning I went to the streets at where they were sleeping and I waked them up and told them to take a bathe in the river (they usually walked late for food or money at night). I gathered them under a tree or in a pagoda. I chatted with them and asked many things about their backgrounds and future needs. I provided them with some medicines and also some numeracy and literacy basics. The material resources were really short. Fortunately, a friend of mine also took part in the teaching process. Mid-1994, I was elected as Deputy Director of CVCD (Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development) because of my experience. Anyway CVCD did not have the budget for my then volunteer activities. In 1995 there were 4 friends who helped me with these activities in front of the Royal Palace and in the compound of Langka Pagoda (the classrooms were in the open, under a tree). We taught them general numeracy, literacy, moralities and sports. In 1996, we, the 5 volunteers, formed one new classroom on the ground under a nun's hut in another pagoda.

In 1997, more forms of poor children were increasing: child labour, child trafficking, domestic violence and "Big Brothers". The "Big Brothers" include kidnappers, robbers, gamblers, thieves, prostitute traffickers, and other gangsters who make those children addict to glue and other substance. The Big Brothers always take revenge when their members (children) are adopted or educated by someone else because the children are their special clients or sources of incomes.

I really wanted to do something sustainable to get them out of poverty. I never have a BA, I did not know what an NGO is and first and foremost I did not have money. But I had four-year experience in the killing fields in my own country and I had the love and pity for all the victims. In 1998, we, six of volunteers, decided to found an NGO called SCADP (Street Children Assistance and Development Programme) with volunteering resources. Because volunteering is time-consuming, money-consuming, heart-consuming and labour-consuming, those volunteers did not stay with SCADP.

Nevertheless I struggled on with myself and all other volunteers who gradually moved from the activities. The activities were: Temporary accommodation for children and other caring and education. The target slums were named by the Government "ANARCHIC AREAS". Fortunately, since July 2000, such volunteerism has come to a sustainable and developmental existence. At last after eight years!

So volunteering gives at least a hope to development without a political tendency or any discrimination!