It’s as if the boys and girls were set out to roam on a six-lane highway. Their lives are at risk. Over the last two days I have watched hundreds of children walk around the roads near Cambodia’s border with Thailand. Some sell trinkets to strangers, others just wander through the crowds for hours. Left alone, these children are in great danger of being trafficked to other countries, then becoming laborers or sex slaves.
I am writing this blog entry from Poi Pet, Cambodia, as I visit our humanitarian projects to prevent child trafficking. What I see here around the border is alarming.
Around here, men and women try to convince children to travel with them across the border in hopes of a job that may bring money back to their families. Instead, children trade their childhoods for months or years in misery. According to the UN, as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. That’s more than 3,200 kids every day.
Public school is out of reach for many poor children near Poi Pet. They may not have a ride to school, or they may not be able to afford the required uniform. Without school, the kids do nothing all day. Parents may be at work, or gone entirely. So the children kill time by wandering near the border.
Humanitarian organization World Concern‘s working to stop the trafficking. Our work with a local non-profit agency, Cambodia Hope Organization, brings classrooms to villages.
Our 25 “School on a Mat” classrooms teach children the curriculum recommended by the government. It gives kids a chance a good education and a much better future. Beyond that, we teach children how to spot the lies of traffickers.
Because a lack of income often sparks risky behavior, we’re also giving young people opportunities for jobs. World Concern’s sewing and motorcycle repair programs give people real skills that they can use to find work or begin their own business. A stable family life often leads to better decisions.
So many children here have yet to find direction. They need the opportunity to attend a “School on a Mat” class, or need to learn life skills. I hope people you recognize the danger these children face, and are willing to do something to stop it.
Join World Concern’s “Free Them” 5K fun run to end human trafficking. It’s Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 9:30 am at World Concern’s headquarters in Seattle.
If you can’t attend, forward or re-post this story, and here’s where to give.