Sponsors are the life blood for our poorer families and are the only means for these children to attend English and Khmer school. Education prepares them to meet the needs of employment in this emerging nation, and closer to home, the needs of this cosmopolitan Tourist destination and International port.
Apart from working the beaches all day and night, there was no future for these children until these sponsorship opportunities arose. Obviously beach selling is a high risk situation especially at night and children can be seen walking home along the roads alone, at all hours of the night, dragging their bags of cans or shoulder strap of bracelets. While they are young and cute they can make good money but do not attend even Khmer school in most cases, as it interferes with their income.
As they grow up with no education or skills there are limited employment prospects for them and they often fall into prostitution for the young girls and crime for the boys. Notices in Information magazines and around beaches, ask visitors not to encourage them by buying from them as there have been many cases of pedophilia and sexual abuse. A tough ‘Child Safe’ policy is now going some way to provide them some protection with many Tuk Tuk drivers completing the course and keeping a sharp eye out for risk situations.
While beach children have excellent English communication skills, as their survival depends on talking to the tourists, they lack any formal structure or written word, and without the Khmer general education they can only live on their wits in the future.
Tourists become enchanted by them and agree to sponsor them in their English studies at Regent school and they approach our school for guidance on how to go about this. Other tourists approach us directly and we can introduce them to children that we know are keen to begin studies if they are lucky enough to be sponsored. Often we suggest siblings, cousins or neighbors of current students.
Included in our sponsorship program are the costs involved in Khmer school education. Uniforms, books, compulsory tuition fees, school bags footwear, pencils erasers etc the government education is supposedly free but most families cannot afford these extra items. Khmer schooling is for half a day and they attend Regent school for the other half of the day so we must have their parents total commitment that they won’t send them selling on the beach instead of attending school.
While most students, both private and sponsored, are largely very enthusiastic and committed, attendance issues can arise. Particularly with sponsored students, due to family health issues or inadequate income, resulting in lack of food and shelter. These students are followed up, their circumstances assessed, and sponsors are fully informed of the situation.