Working with the street children of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Thet's Story

Off the streets and into school...

When Thet* was just a young boy his father died. The family has always been poor and after the father's death they struggled even more. At age 12 he moved his grandmother from the rural province of Kampot to Sihanoukville hoping for a better life.

In Sihanoukville young Thet worked on the streets and beach collecting cans and bottles to sell to support himself and his grandmother. It was on the beach that Thet met a group of older boys who threatened him and forced him to steal money for them. He was very afraid and knew that they would beat him up if he did not do what they said.

Our Child Protection team first met Thet after receiving a call from the local police. Thet had been arrested for stealing. The local police wanted to help the young boy and asked M'Lop Tapang for advice and assistance. We are very happy to report that Thet, now 13-years old, is now off the streets and studying at our Main Center with others. He is excited to be in school for the first time ever and tells us he wants to be a mechanic in the future when he grows up.

*name and photo changed for confidentiality

Bross's Story

One of our favorite stories so far this year is about 22 year old "Bross" who lives near M'Lop Tapang's Main Center. We met him one day when he was out walking around. He moved to Sihanoukville about 2 months ago and has been blind since birth.

He was very eager to join in some of the programs and after hearing from him that he loved music we invited him to our arts activities to learn more about singing and how to play the keyboards. On his first morning of joining others at the Arts Center for music class he told us he was so excited that he could not sleep the night before. "I never hear the words 'go learn' said to me before".

We are also very proud to see that several of the older youth at M'Lop Tapang, some who have a reputation of being tough street kids, have taken Bross under their wing, looking out for him and helping to make sure he gets to the center and back home again safely each day.

Buntha's Story

18 year-old Buntha* had to drop out of school in Grade 7.
One of five children born to a poor family, he quit school and started selling newspapers around town to help support his family.

Last year he met one of M'Lop Tapang's social workers and asked if they could help him. Deciding he wanted to learn about sewing, Buntha entered one of the vocational training programs.

Buntha proved to be an excellent student. After a little more than a year studying and training, we are very happy and proud to announce that Buntha has now set up a small sewing business at his house. He makes a more regular income from customers in the neighborhood and is able to help himself and his family more.

*name changed for confidentiality

Sopheary's Story

Congratulations to 17-year old Sopheary*, one of the latest graduates from our Vocational Training program to find employment after training.

The oldest of three children, Sopheary grew up in the countryside. He left school in grade 9 because his parents didn't have enough money to support him to continue his learning, and he stayed at home to help his family to with rice farming.

Sopheary's aunt, who lives in Sihanoukville, knew of M'Lop Tapang and asked our social work team if Pheary could study a skill at our training center.

After spending about 8 months studying electrics at our Vocational Training Center, our jobs placement officer helped Sopheary to find employment as an electrician. He now has a steady income and enough to save some money to send back to help his family.

*name changed for confidentially


Khoich's Story

In 2003, "Khouch" (the middle boy on the motorcycle) was just was 9 years old when his mother died. With no father and no other relatives to turn to, he was alone. He lived and worked on the streets, sleeping on the beach at night. He was one of the first children that M'Lop Tapang met and started to help.

"Khouch" is still with M'Lop Tapang today and is now in grade 11 at Sihanoukville High School, is a regular performer in our Arts programs, and is a member of a Youth Group that reaches out to other children to help.

Samnang's Story

19-year old Samnang* grew up in Kampot province. His father died when Samnang was just 7 years old, leaving his mother struggling to care for 2 small children. Unable to afford to send the children to school, Samnang had to drop out in grade 7 and was sent to live with a relative in Sihanoukville.
When our team met Samnang 2 years ago he was eager to try and improve his life. When told about M'Lop Tapang's vocational training programs he was really interested in learning about cooking. As one of the students at Sandan restaurant, Samnang was able to study cooking, service skills, and English.

After learning at Sandan for almost 2 years and proving himself to be a bright, energetic student, our Training Placement officer recently helped him to find a job at a local restaurant. Samnang now has safe and secure full-time employment with a reliable steady income. His new employer also provides him with meals and transportation to work.

We are very proud of Samnang and of all the other young people in our training programs who continue to work and study hard to build a better future for themselves.

*name changed for confidentiality

Srey Leak's Story

Srey Leak* is a 19 years old Cambodia girl. M'Lop Tapang social workers met Srey Leak on the beach 2 years ago when she was sell sea food to tourists. Her income was low and unreliable, on rainy days she had none. Srey Leak was also vulnerable when working alone on the beaches, often late at night.

Srey Leak was very interested in learning new skills to help her find safe employment, and after spending time with our outreach team; she decided she wanted to learn to be a cook.

We are so happy to report that after training at Sandan, our vocational training restaurant, Srey Leak recently got a job working at New Sea View Villa, one of Sihanoukville most popular restaurants and also a M'Lop Tapang ChildSafe partner.

"I am so happy working at New Sea View Villa, and the staff are very kind to me. The owner has chosen me to be in charge of making all sauces, so I am getting more training now and learning new skills. I thank M'Lop Tapang for helping me move forward in my life.... my family are proud of me..."

Congratulations to Srey Leak and thank you again to all the businesses in Sihanoukville, like the New Sea View Villa, that support graduates of our training programs

*name changed for confidentiality

Sophea's Story

When our Outreach team met Sophea* and her family a few years ago, neither she nor any of her siblings had ever attended school before. Her father had died when she was young and her mother was struggling to support the family.

Now 13 year old Sophea and her two brothers are among the more than 350 children attending classes in the "Bridging Program" at our Main Center. The program, with a curriculum developed in collaboration with the Department of Education, works with children and youth who have never been to school before (or have been out of school for a long time) catch up with their studies with the aim of one day being reintegrated into the local public school system at a grade level suitable for their age.

Sophea's favorite part of attending classes at M'Lop Tapang is being able to use computers. When asked, she tells us that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

*Name changed for confidentiality

Sophal's Story

Congratulations to Sophal, the latest graduate from our Vocational Training programs to successfully complete training and find safe, steady employment.

Growing up in the rural countryside of Kompot Province, Sophal was one of five child

ren. His parents, both farmers, suffer with alcoholism and often neglected the children. Much of the responsibility for raising the children was taken over by Sophal's aging grandfather. Before studying at M'Lop Tapang, Sophal sometimes helped to farm, herded cows, and occasionally found temporary work as an unskilled construction laborer. When our Outreach Team first came in contact with Sophal he had no job, was always hungry as he did not enough to eat, and unhappy his with life.

Eager to make a change in his life, Sophal was enthusiastic about the opportunity to study motorcycle repair at our training center. In addition to learning a marketable skill, the training course also provided Sophal with food, heath care, counseling, and English and Khmer lessons. He proved himself to be a good student with a gentle nature.

After spending just over one year studying and training, our team helped Sophal to set up a small motorcycle repair shop last month in his hometown. With a steady flow of customers, his grandfather told us that Sophal now regularly earns between 20,000 Riel ($5) - 40,000 Riel ($10) daily at his shop fixing and cleaning motorcycles and is much happier and healthier than he was before.

Sophal is one of 29 youth so far this year to complete a Vocational Training programs and go on to find steady work and start to build brighter futures for themselves.

*name changed for confidentiality

Heng's Story

19 year old Heng has been with M'Lop Tapang for last four years. Heng is a member of our Youth Volunteer network and regularly speaks to audiences about his experiences. This is his story in his own words.

"Before my family lived in Sihanoukville. And I have two sisters, one brother and me. My father is a farmer and mother is a housewife. But unfortunately my father, he abandoned his wife and family. We don't know why! He abandoned his family forever. So we must lived with mother, sisters, one brother and me. My mother, she tried to stay in Sihanoukville, but she is difficult to earn money. So she decided to moved to live in Koh Kong. My mother, she sold snacks on the streets to got profits to live.

Then my mother decided to got stepfather one, she still sold desserts and my stepfather is a farmer. When I lived with my stepfather three year ago he began domestic violence in the family. He drank wine and fought my mother. So I became trouble behavior in Koh Kong and dropped out of my house and I moved to live other places, as Phnom Pneh, Kompot, Smach Den and I stayed with friends, neighbors, relatives.

When I can't live with someone I decided to came back to my house. One day I listened to the radio. I heard that M'Lop Tapang organization working with street children. Immediately, I thought, I wanted to study and that I didn't want to live here. I ask my mother that, mum, I wanted to live Sihanoukville and study. Because when I live here I didn't go to school. My mother heard like this. She agreed me. But she didn't have enough money so she borrowed money from the neighbors. And she took to Sihanoukville. My mum asks the M'Lop Tapang staff to help me study and they agree me to study.

I stayed with my uncle. In the morning I went to the school and in the evening I came back my uncle house again and again every days until two years and a half. But his son and daughter didn't like and hate me so much, they are very nasty. They always made some problems with me. Fought or curse me that "you're a farmer. Never to the city". So I'm difficult to live with there. One day my uncle, he asks me to dropped out of his house.

The M'Lop Tapang staff decided me to live in the M'Lop Tapang organization. And supporting as studying, living, clothing all the things. When I lived in the M'Lop Tapang I can study Khmer at state school and English language. Right now I study at eleven grade in state school. And I got a lot of knowledge from societies and experiences work from the M'Lop Tapang staff. And they are very friends.

In the future I want to become a IT "Information Technology" or English Teacher. And I hope I can have a good job and good happiness in the future to myself or family."

Setha's Story

18 year old Setha* is the latest student to successfully find employment after participating in our Vocational Training program.

The youngest of seven children, Setha was raised by his single parent mother after his father passed away. T

he family was poor and Setha and some of his siblings used to sell newspapers on the streets and trinkets on the beach to help his mother provide enough food for the family. When M'Lop Tapang's Outreach Team first met Setha a couple of years ago when he was 16 years old, he had dropped out of school and started using drugs.

For the last year and a half, Setha has been involved in our vocational training program studying motor repair. In addition to learning a marketable skill, the program also provided Setha with food, health care, counseling, Khmer and basic English lessons, as well as giving his the opportunity to engage in health recreational activities. He excelled at the training and became a great example for other students in the program.

Last month he graduated from the training and was helped to find a job at a local repair shop. His new tells our follow team that is very happy with Setha's work. His mother also told our team how happy she is to see her son stop using drugs and to have a steady safe job.

Congratulations to Setha for all his hard work. Our team will continue to check up on him regularly at his new job but we are confident that he is on the road to a better future.

*name changed for confidentiality

Tuon's Story

15 year old Tuon* is one of 7 youth in M'Lop Tapang's "Special Needs Program" held daily at our Main Center.

In a country where most families lack access to even the most basic health and social services, families with children having learning disabilities have even fewer options There are a scant few services in all of Cambodia for children with special needs (and none in the Sihanoukville area) and most face significant discrimination within the community.

Tuon is one of 6 children in a family that lives in the slums of Sihanoukville where out Outreach team first met him. Before joining the program more than a year ago, Tuon simply stayed at home all day. In our special needs program Tuon now has the opportunity to interact with other children, engage in sports and healthy play, attend structured learning activities, and is provided with medical care and nutritious meals.

Sophea's Story

Srey Sophea* is one of 17 mothers in Our Home-Based Production program. The program helps families earn an income. Mothers are provided with training in sewing and then provided with sewing machines to work with at their homes. Products the

ey produce are sold in the M'Lop Tapang shops.


Srey Sophea has been in the program for almost one year now and is able to earn about $100/month making products. Before joining the program she was earning barely $20/month selling seafood on the beaches to tourists, sometime with her children in tow. Her husband repairs motorcycles at a small stand he has outside their house, but customers are few and far between. With an increased steady income from selling sewing items she produces Sophea is now able to send three of her children to school as well as safely look after her youngest child at home. There are currently 17 mothers and 1 father in this program and 69 children benefiting from these parents' stable income


 *name changed for confidentiality