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Cambodia's Mith Samlanh Children - Cooking Up A Future

From the depths of despair Mith Sam Lanh children now have a future - Mith Sam Lanh photo


James Loving - National Radio Text Service

Providing a service for the abused and underprivileged street children of Cambodia.

Thursday May 30, 2002

With seven years of experience behind them the Mith Samlanh/Friends organization is providing a service for the abused and underprivileged street children of Cambodia. They prepare the youths with various vocational skills training and job placement. From the depths of despair Mith Samlanh children now have a future.

The group states that they aim at supporting the street children's reintegration into society through employment, registration into public schools and return them to their families through the Khmer culture.

The organization works with an average 1,500 children a day providing outreach (meeting the children where they live). They have doctors and social workers on the street to talk and play with them and give them basic medical care. The Mith Samlanh center houses 440 children.

Gustav Auer, the technical advisor of the Meth Samlanh restaurant explained what qualifies a child to be taken in by the organization.

"We check out first where they come from," Auer said. "We check their family and try to get them back into the family before we take them in. If they don't want to, we take them in or we talk to the family to get their permission to have them here to study or have their training here.

"They are high at risk to go on the street because their family can't feed them. We try and get them before they actually make it on the street. Many of the people we are dealing with now are HIV/AIDS infected. So, before a family actually passes away, we're dealing with the kids already… so they actually don't make it onto the street."

The training includes cooking, commerce, mechanics, electronics, esthetics, hairdressing, wielding, electricity, farming, sewing, masonry, tiling and painting. Friends also have a farm where the children learn agriculture. Education in drug prevention, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health issues are also provided.

Kitchen staff enjoy cooking things up for hungry guests at Mith Samlanh restaurant - Mith Sam Lanh photo

Pictured top left to right Gustav Auer, Sopheak (student), Sopheap (student), kneeling Mr. Bora (manager/teacher). In the background is a painting of Bayon faces by student Kohrung - NR photo

Mith Samlanh child actors in their play "Poverty Meets The Cheat." - Mith Sam Lanh photo


With many of the children being the product of abuse Friends informs them about child rights. That involves protecting the children from sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

The period of time that a student stays involved depends of their pervious health and education. Auer noted that it could be 1-3 years

Mith Samlanh Partners include: Ausaid, UNICEF, UNFPA, the EC, World Food Program, Comite Catholique Ia Faim et pour le Development (CCFD), Save the Children Australia, DOH-International, FHI-Impact, private donors and families and friends.

Auer pointed out the restaurant is self-sustaining and functioning without outside funding. He said the business generates enough money to cover expenses and the room and board of the children that work there.

The success rate of Auer's restaurant project is 90%. Only three of his students didn't make it. Those that did moved on to jobs or opened their own small business such as a small noodle stand. Many of the students obtained good jobs in restaurants.

The restaurant has a three level program. For someone who wants to learn how to cook, step one is to learn hygiene and cook for students at the center for a period of time until they are ready to take an exam and graduate to the second level.

Level two is the canteen outside of the restaurant where they cook for the public. They then take another exam and then graduate to the restaurant. From there Friends find jobs for the students. Many graduates are employed at top restaurants and hotels in Phnom Penh.

Auer noted that some of the students find the restaurant work too demanding or different for them and prefer not to move to that level… but Friends are there to help.

"From the second level we either give them a micro credit to open their own little noodle shop or soup kitchen…or we find jobs for them" he said.

The cheery environment of eatery features paintings by the children adorns the bright blue and yellow colored walls. Auer was quick to say that the paintings were not for sale.

The menu features items between $1-2. Some eye catchers are grilled fish fillet with curried-lemon butter, pasta with sun dried tomatoes and parmesan, mixed greens with tomatoes in a balsamic vinaigrette and lemongarlic fried squid, all priced at a dollar per item.

Famed personalities such as actors Angelina Joile and her husband Bob Thornton have dined at the restaurant but as Auer pointed out it's the locals of Phnom Penh that keep the restaurant self sustaining.

June 1st is International Children's Day. A good way to support the event would be to drop by and have a meal at Mith Samlanh, Street 13, House # 215, Phnom Penh. Tel: 012 802 072. The restaurant is just 50m north of the National Museum entrance.


Developing the children's interest in the arts is also a thriving project for the organization. Training for writing and acting is also a part of helping the children with building their self-esteem and confidence.

During the month of May the Mith Samlanh joined with other NGO's and the David Glass Ensemble in assembling a group of 50 children who wrote and acted in a play "Poverty Meets the Cheat" that toured around Cambodia The children conceived the concept for the show and expressed their point of view on child abuse.

The tour kicked off Thursday May 2nd when the youths performed for members of the Royal family.

The play was then open to the public in the provinces of Kompong Som, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kompong Cham. Jane Arnfield a facilitator from the David Glass Ensemble and Mith Samlanh's Nicholas Rambaud oversaw the project.

Rambaud said the show was well received in Battambang with a turnout of over 1,000 in attendance for the two shows (500 per show).

An illustrated book of the play is available. It was written and illustrations were also done by the children. Contact Mith Samlanh @:www.streetfriends.org


© Copyright: National Radio. Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com All rights reserved.


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