Friday, May 18, 2012

Cambodian Children working the Streets

We had dinner in the Pub Street area ~ a nice place with a variety of food.  Prices, so low to our normalcy we ordered a couple of dishes for the children, just in case they didn't like one of them.  Of course, half the food was still on the plate after paying the bill and walking out of the restaurant, but it was okay ~ the total bill was still a fraction of what it would typically cost us in Singapore.

The streets are busy and suddenly, there is a small girl staring at me, walking next to the single stroller I am pushing my healthy 2-year old son in.  She has a small doll-looking figure in a cloth carrier attached to her front.  The girl is far too young to have a child of her own, it has to be a doll, I think to myself.  The doll's eyelids flutter a little and I question whether this tiny doll is alive. 

She is still looking at me, holding an empty baby bottle in one hand supporting the doll in the other arm.  The dolls eyes flutter again.  I prompt the girl walking next to me, "how old is your baby?"

The baby is 10 days old.  My heart breaks into pieces and I can feel tears welling in my eyes.

Using my western manners, I can not bring myself to ask if the baby is hers.  I don't really want to hear her say, "yes."  I don't want to know the story behind such a young child herself birthing a baby and trying to raise it. 

Then again, I don't want to hear her say, "no."  I don't really want to think about a mom letting another child take her 10-day old baby out of her arms into the streets of Cambodia, especially at night.  The baby and the child should be at home in bed.

"The baby needs milk."  She waves the empty baby bottle around a bit to show me it is empty.  We just left food on our table at the restaurant and now this child with a new born baby is standing next to me needing food and baby milk.  

My stomach drops and I feel like I might be sick.

"Do you need some money to buy milk?"  I ask.

"I do not want money, but I need milk."  She tells me.

"Okay, where do you get milk?"

"There is a mini mart right over there."  She says pointing a few doors down.  It is a busy mini mart in the heart of Pub Street.  I glance back at Kevin and he immediately takes the small girl and her baby into the mini mart to get them some milk.

He comes out with a container of baby formula.  Brilliant! The baby will be able to eat for at least a week with that container.  He touches the babies cheek.  It is cold and clammy and can barely open her eyes.

The girl was very appreciative and walks away.  I want to mix up a bottle of formula immediately.  Instead, I watch her cross the road and curious as to where she will go.  We can see her standing with another lady and hope she keeps the container of formula herself and not give it away.  She does keep it and then she disappears.

Kevin tells me that the posted price for the formula read around $30, but the cashier at the mini mart only asked for $5 when he paid.  Maybe the local girls get a local price?  We don't know and can not continue to think about it, because there really isn't anything else we can do at this time. 

I can only think to myself how badly I want to take both of those babies home with us.  Feed them, bathe them and let them be children.


Arriving back to our Guesthouse, we mention the story to the staff.  They kindly tell us about some of the corruption in Cambodia, which includes young children, babies and women.  Most likely the young girl took that container of formula and sold it back to her "boss" for pennies.

My heart breaks again and I want to run back out there to find that baby and bring her to safety. The rest of the nights, I can barely look at all those young girls on the streets, prepping for their future of approaching strangers.  What can I do?  There must be some way to help them.

The U.S. has had a ban on adopting Cambodian children since 2001.  Apparently, the corruption was so out of control that parents were selling their children to orphanages and private groups that promised a better life for them, which would also give them the funds needed to feed their other children.  The private groups would turn around and sell the children to anyone, including those laughable whore houses so common on the streets of places like Thailand.

I don't get it.  There are so many good families out there that want to adopt a child and raise them with real values.  I can not grasp the even larger amount of people out there that want these children as slaves.  Slaves for numerous things, but a large portion as sex slaves.  I was always led to believe that the girls (and boys known as lady-boys) in those whore houses chose to be there and could leave at any given moment.

I was wrong.  Most of these young souls have been indebted to a life of being owned and will never be able to pay the debt back to escape.  They are held like prisoners.

I don't get it.  I don't want to believe that there are people out there that actually pay to hurt a child for their own pleasure.  Who could do that to a child or another human being at all?  Who are these people and what gives them the right to exploit these vulnerable woman and children the way that they do?

I have so many emotions storming through my western mind, it is hard to grasp my true feelings.  Anger, sadness, greed, ashamed.  Most of all I feel ashamed. 

Ashamed that I go on living my life so happy and able to disconnect what I saw and go on living as if it doesn't exist.  There must be a way to help, but how?


I begin researching some of the issues and have been completely blown away with the statistics.  Human trafficking is the third most profitable business comparable to drug trafficking and illegal fire arms trade.  WHAT?! 

Drugs are common all over the world and there are a lot of corrupt people out there willing to pay top dollar for different fire arms, but people?  Who still buys people?  I thought that ended in the 1800's, along with the U.S. Civil War.

Apparently, the times have changed from investing in slaves, to modern slavery as Kevin Bales describes it, buying them cheap and keeping them as "disposable people".  No need to keep the person healthy, like the traditionally known slaves were kept as an investment ~ they are now disposable, replaceable and invisible at no great expense.

But, not so invisible that I didn't notice.  Once I knew what was really going on in the streets, it was everywhere and it is heartbreaking.  These children owned by greedy, disgusting people.  Unable to escape for so many reasons.


When I think of human enslavery (of which isn't okay in any regard), I think of a third-world country.  I picture people working in these places, in factories working very long hours 7 days a week for just a few dollars.

I don't picture children being forced to sell their bodies to profit their owner and I don't expect it to be happening in the U.S. or Europe.  However, most of the enslaved people have in some way come through these developed countries into their new lives with no knowledge of where they are going or what will happen to them once they arrive ~ How is this happening?

I don't get it.

An interesting site on this issue:

Another powerful story:

A very disturbing truth about this issue is written in this book:
Not For Sale by David Batstone

Support a non-profit group teaching and employing those that have escaped how to make jewelry:


Karien said...

Whow, what a heartbreaking story. I did know (a bit) about this, but to see it like that must be terrible. I makes me feel so powerless. Is there not something us rich westerners can do?

Tina said...


I have been reading your blog for quite some time now, as a kind of "preparation" for our move from Germany to Singapore with three kids aged 2, 5 and 7. We moved three months ago and now live in the Bukit Timah area. I found your last post about the Cambodian children very moving (do you say so?). I am sure I would have had similar thoughts and I believe it is not easy to put these thoughts into words. I just wanted to tell you about World Vision, which is an organisation specially helping children all over the world. You can become "godmother" of one or more children (in a country of your choice), you will get their names and information about their progress throughout the years. You can correspond with them and even visit them. In this way you will know where your money goes to and are also able to have close contact if you wish. Of course this is just a very small help in comparison with what you have seen and experienced in Cambodia, but it could be a start.
Kind regards, Tina (

Sofia said...

I have also become a fan of your blog. I was reading through when I saw this post and I can really identify with what you felt and thought... I keep telling my husband, I am not ready to go to e.g. India because I KNOW how I would feel and I would want to take home all children with me... fact is that you can't and that is so heartbreaking.
Thank you for the infos at the end of the article, they are interesting and helpful. And maybe, just maybe, there is really a way to help children in such conditions...?I wish you all the best and please keep writing! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...