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Nestled amid Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Cambodia is a land of rice paddies, ancient temples and poverty. More than half of the population is under 25 years old. In many of the impoverished rural areas, where 85 percent of Cambodian people live, children have reduced access to education, safe water, sanitation and employment opportunities. ChildFund has worked in Cambodia’s remote, rural areas to connect communities to education, clean water and sanitation facilities, child protection services and training about child rights and youth initiatives.

ChildFund has served children in Cambodia since 2007. Help make a difference and sponsor a child in Cambodia today.  

ChildFund Cambodia’s extensive water and sanitation project is bringing clean water and improved sanitation facilities to families in rural Cambodia. The addition of wells and toilets has decreased rates of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and hepatitis, for which the youngest Cambodian children are most at risk. Meanwhile, decreased medical expenses and less time off work have meant that family incomes have increased, helping to reduce poverty in Cambodia. We are also helping to increase household food security and enhance livelihoods by providing training and equipment, and establishing community-based saving groups.

ChildFund Cambodia provides children and youth with access to education – including classroom materials and bicycles to ride to school. In partnership with the government and local communities, we have established child-friendly libraries; trained principals, teachers and librarians in child-friendly approaches and library management; and constructed playgrounds and educated students about playground safety. Community education campaigns and awareness sessions teach young Cambodian people about the risks of human trafficking and child labor, and ChildFund-trained youth lead programs on child protection and rights.

ChildFund’s 50 youth groups engage nearly 2,000 members and offer training in life skills and livelihoods such as sewing, motorbike maintenance and electrical repair. Many youth receive livestock and equipment, benefiting both themselves and their families. And young Cambodian people are actively involved as representatives participating in local development planning.

One of the greatest challenges facing Cambodian children, particularly those living in rural areas, is access to school. Cambodian education until the last century included mainly the memorization of Buddhist chants in local temples. The French occupation of Cambodia in the 20th century introduced the French model of education, which divided schooling into primary, secondary, higher and specialized. Despite the great improvements in literacy that resulted, the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975 brought about almost total destruction of educational progress. The Khmer Rouge closed schools, and educated people and teachers were treated very harshly. Up to 90 percent of all teachers were executed under the regime.

The Cambodian education system has faced many challenges since the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled, when it had to start again from almost nothing. Much progress was made in expanding education in the 1990s, but financial resources have been very limited. Teachers in Cambodia earn very low wages and turn to collecting informal school fees to make a living. These daily informal school fees are a major deterrent for children attending school as many families cannot afford it, particularly with an average of three children per household. Poverty is the biggest obstacle to children’s school attendance because the extra cost of and time spent attending school cancel out any extra income a child could earn, a cost most families can’t afford.

Our work in Cambodia focuses on early childhood development, enabling better access to education systems, increasing primary school enrollment and retention, expanding access to basic health care and protecting children’s rights. Through child sponsorship, we aim to provide children and their family the means to break the cycle of poverty.


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  • November 8, 2004

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