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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Street Kids & SUV's

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 28 June 2007 | Views [906]

"Buy me, sir," calls out the young Cambodian woman from her street vendor stall.  “No, buy from me,” shouts the one right next to her.  We've learned that nearly 50% of the Cambodian population is age 15 or younger.  It seems like that entire population are working their tails off, selling all types of goods and services on the streets.  It's rare to see more mature adults out touting their wares.  Rather, what we've learned, is that they send their kids out to do the heavy lifting, often at the expense of their children attending school and becoming educated.  We've even seen advisories posted around town, not to buy from the street children, as the money goes back directly to their presumed lazy parents, incenting the viscous cycle of parents using child labor to support the family, and the children suffering from a lack of education and real childhood.
They sell everything; t-shirts, books, jewelry, scarves, handicrafts - carried in heavy plastic bins on a shoulder strap.  They all have a similar selling approach:  "Sir, where are you from?  Oh, USA, California?  Sacramento is your capital and Arnold Schwarzenegger  is your Governor.  Now you buy my postcards!"  Or this one we hear quite often:  "Play a game with me - tic-tac-toe or pool; you lose, you buy my stuff, I lose, I leave you alone."  They speak more languages than I could ever dream of.  They know trivia about every country, that would make an elementary school teacher proud in the US.  They're a fountain of knowledge retention.  They say your purchase helps to pay their school tuition, and you silently wonder if and when they ever see the inside of a classroom, because you see them day in and day out on the streets.  They have big dreams - one girl wants to be a hotel manager, another a teacher.  These children are smart, beautiful, street savvy and resilient.  It's tragic to see their lives wither away selling off the street.  There are a bunch of NGO's here set up to specifically help street children and teach them new skills, creating an environment that gets them off the street and prioritizes education, helping them to access new opportunities off the street.

Its a stark juxtaposition, to see the poverty on the streets, the children that have little, the amputees that have been ostracized from mainstream society with no special aid to support them, and contrast this with the SUV's and wealth that parades so visibly down the streets.  We see Hummers, big Toyota trucks and Land Cruisers everywhere, next to shanties and street vendors.  Several people had said the luxury cars belong to the NGO workers.  A sad state of affairs if that's a fact.

In the end, we bought all our books directly from the children, only after sitting with them for hours having conversations about their dreams and goals, and encouraging them to work toward those dreams. 

Tags: Shopping


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