So why should you donate to Friends International? Has your heart ever gone out to beggars on the street, and you’ve not known how to help?
I first came aware of their work when eating an awesome meal out in Phnom Penh. I’d just moved there to work as a teacher and shared a flat with my mate Alex. His balcony looked down a large courtyard that often woke him with the sound of cheerful kids. On one of my first nights in town we went out to eat at the restaurant down below. We gorged on fresh tapas and soaked up the lively atmosphere. I learnt that all the staff that served and cooked for us were former street kids. They were as professional as any other.
Here’s a little about the restaurant:
Friends the Restaurant is a training restaurant run by former street youth and their teachers.
To help Mith Samlanh’s hospitality students gain practical skills and prepare them for employment, we operate so called training restaurant. ….
… The focus of this training is building self-esteem, self-respect, very high standards of hygiene and of course, hospitality skills. When the students have finished their training, we help them to find jobs. We are grateful to all the businesses that offer employment opportunities to our students. There is nothing greater than to see them working independently either in their own business or in one of the many eateries around town.
All profits from our restaurants are reinvested into Mith Samlanh’s projects for former street children and youth.
Over my time in Cambodia I learnt more about FI and also the country itself. The country if flooded with NGO’s, some excellent, others purely corrupt and selfish. There are many orphanages out there that have been shown to be merely money-making zoos. Foreigners can unwittingly feed a problem with misguided donations.
Cambodia is still getting back on its feet after decades of terrible war. Poverty is greater than of its neighbours and large proportions of the population have to fend for themselves in tough conditions. In Phnom Penh it is all too visible, especially to a first-timer: amputees hobbling in the street, toddlers playing bare footed in the gutter, families rooting through rubbish, gleaming Humvees driving past. Along the bustling riverfront – where the money is – it’s hard to refuse the cute, cheeky kids who’re after cash. It’s usually through begging or the selling of trinkets, but sometimes they resort to other, less honest, means.
I’ll quite often give to the needy who obviously have no other option, but with children I always draw the line. They shouldn’t start life like that, in a cycle of dependency. Public schooling can be expensive for poor families. Food is a greater priority and that’s where the money goes. Addictions such as glue-sniffing drive the problem.
This is where Friends International excels. They break the cycle at every stage through the following programs:
An all-too-brief summary is that they empower the parents and family while offering a future away from the streets for the children and youth. They are far more than a mere “charity” giving unaccountable hand-outs.
All pictures are courtesy of Friends International.