Together we can make changes!
Cambodia is on the rise. The economy is growing at a high rate, investments are pouring in from overseas, and Phnom Penh is transforming into a modern capital city. Yet the country is emerging from a troubled history that includes a decade of brutal war and genocide in the 1970′s and a more recent AIDS epidemic that killed well over 100,000 Cambodians. Today more than 20 percent of Cambodians continue to live in dire poverty, and many still lack access to education and basic health services.
One lingering wound in Cambodia is that nearly 10,000 children are growing up in more than 220 registered orphanages. But studies done in Cambodia and worldwide raise questions that deserve our attention. We need to ask ourselves if we can do better. Are orphanages and shelters really the best way to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, especially after a crisis has passed? And are the children in orphanages really orphans at all?
Many orphanages work diligently to provide children with safety, food, and education, but many others function like businesses with poor children and “child sponsorships” as their products. Both good and bad, they are all institutions by nature.
In February, 2012 the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cambodia announced a new policy aimed at keeping Cambodian children out of institutions in favor of family based care. The government has begun to challenge existing orphanages to transition into community centers that work with local leaders to strength and support families.
Can we do better? The growing consensus says yes, we can. Whether we will, or not, is a matter of leadership and action, together with changes in the way we invest money and resources for the sake of children in need.