Do you remember my article “Why there are children begging in Siem Reap and what you can do about it?” In the article, I explained why it’s important to consciously buy something from adult traders rather than children. In addition to this article, I present you a simple handout as an aid. Now you can make a contribution and actively work toward the well-being of Cambodian children.
In some parts of Siem Reap, the children are quite obtrusive and understandably you may want to turn and run. Still, many tourists are increasingly aware of and try to follow the call to not buy items from children, but to contact an aid organization instead, which is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, this makes the situation worse because then as a reflex tourists don’t buy anything at all, including items from adults.
A simple handout that informs that you want to buy something from an adult
But, now there is a way to mitigate the situation for the locals. How? By ignoring the children who want to sell you something and instead buying something from adults who are close by using a simple handout that informs that you want to buy something from an adult. Often, the Cambodian traders speak very little English, not to mention German or other languages. So it is difficult for them to understand or sense what you are looking to buy.
This is why I thought about the following: “What if you could show a handout to the children telling them what you want to buy and that you will only buy from an adult?” The handout would state “I would like to buy now and I will only buy from an adult.” My thoughts behind this idea:
Supports the guiding principle not to buy from children
Creates a way to still help
Achieves awareness that it is important to buy something from adult traders
Prepares you for situations that can be unpleasant and exhausting (the begging children can really break your heart)
Provides the option for you to give without being dependent on others (such as aid organizations)
Gives you a way to act instead of feeling helpless against a horde of begging children who want to sell you something (unfortunately, this happens occasionally)
Lets you do the right thing and still make a lasting impression with a small gesture
I have developed this idea over time. I asked my friends what they thought of my idea for this handout. They were enthusiastic about the approach, although there were, of course, many in-depth discussions. We are well aware that the situation will not change, but we know looking away is not a solution.
My Indonesian, “house and yard” graphic artist Kadek from Fabulous Design (the “Visit Angkor” logo comes from him :-) has designed three booklet templates for printing. Because I like them all, I’ve uploaded them here for you.
Three templates to download and print for you
You can download and print the template for the handout that you like best in DIN A4 or DIN A5 format.
By the way: The sentence in Khmer script means “I would like to buy something from an adult.” So, it’s the same info as the English sentence.
How to use the handout:
Take your time and let the situation work for you. (You can find out what beautiful things can happen because of that if you read in the blog article “Ta Prohm Temple – Scenes of an Encounter”).
Show the handout and look for adults.
Show them on this handout, what you want to buy.
Do not pay attention to the children as long as they want to sell you something (which is certainly the hardest thing – but believe me, you don’t do them any favors if you buy something from them).
Overall, the handout is meant to be an aid, or a medium. If you get along without it, that’s great. For me it’s important—as I mentioned before—to end the reflex of buying nothing because you shouldn’t buy from children.
Even if it is initially a dream, it would be nice if the adult traders would realize it’s worth it not to send the children to beg or sell. The same is true for gangs who engage and exploit children. In any case, this is a simple option to try. It’s an opportunity to do something good; an opportunity to make a difference with simple means. It’s an opportunity to change the life of Cambodian children with a simple piece of paper. These children need our help and not just in Cambodia, but everywhere in the world where these sweet little ones have to beg.
My dear Grandma and what she has to do with the whole thing
I was immensely lucky to have a wonderful grandma. She lived to the grand age of 90. It has been seven years since she passed, but I often think of her. My memories of her are still alive as always and will always be. She often told me about life during the war, about her children—my mother and my uncle. She sent my mother as a little girl to stand in line for a handful of flour and margarine. She stood there all alone, waiting patiently among grown adults. At last she got something special. An apple or a roll, sometimes even a small piece of chocolate.
Like the Cambodians today, my Grandmother sent her children to beg. She did this in the hope that it would be worth it again the next time and they could get something extra for the family.
Later, after the war, the money had to be put into circulation in order to boost the economy. My grandmother told me that they were asked not to save, but to spend every penny as quickly as possible in order to support each other. I always think of her stories when I see scenes of Cambodian children who want to sell me something. Their parents cannot afford to do anything because—once again—they have hardly sold anything.
Of course, the situation today is different—there is truly an abundance to be had. If there was a market in the post-war period there would be very little to buy-everything was scarce. Today, it is a buyer’s market, everyone is looking for customers. As consumers, we can choose from a wide range of products, including flour and margarine in many varieties. Even so, one thing has remained the same: there are those who have an abundance and there are those who have nothing.
The flour and the margarine from the past has become today’s tourists traveling to Siem Reap. The Cambodians need this money urgently to survive and feed their families. With time, they have learned (as my Grandmother did) that children are much better at selling and begging. The anguish in their eyes pulls on our hearts and we feel compassion for them. However, children in Cambodia pay a high price for selling, a price that affects their entire lives. They don’t get to regularly attend school, they don’t get to play games with their friends, instead they have to work and sell and beg. They may even end up in an orphanage, even though they are not orphans.
Cambodia: Where poverty and the many orphanages come from
The once flourishing Cambodia has still not recovered from the terrorism of the Khmer Rouge. 80% of the population lives in the countryside, partly without electricity. More than half of the Cambodians—about 55%— see their income as weak (Source: LIP Portal – only in German language).
If the families begin to do better, the children usually benefit at the same time. However, with the increase in tourism in the last few years, parents are increasingly giving their children on good faith to orphanages. They are promised that their children will be well taken care of and that they can go to school. Some of the children in Cambodian orphanages are not orphans at all. The operators of these orphanages know that children can earn them money—especially when tourists visit orphanages. The more children they see the more their heart bleeds and the more money they are willing to donate.
(Important note: Of course, this does not apply to all the orphanages in Cambodia, there are some very well managed orphanages, I’ll write about them in one of my next articles.) This is just one more reason to purchase from the adults so they don’t have to give up their children. If you want to know more, I recommend to read “don’t create more orphans” from ChildSafe Movement.
Fortunately, there are organizations and projects directed entirely at adults, such as “Artisans Angkor”, a craftsmen association in Siem Reap which is headed by Cambodian leadership. It is responsible for ensuring that families in the villages around Siem Reap have an income through the production of various artifacts. The association itself is involved with the sale of works of art locally and even abroad. At the same time, the work of Artisans Angkor has the positive effect of maintaining a tradition of craftsmanship with an accompanying cultural Cambodian identity.
Another positive example is Phare, the extraordinary Cambodian circus in Siem Reap. Thanks to the circus, whole village communities have a livelihood and children are cared for and can go to school. Phare is a great project that already attracts international attention. And a big thanks to the brilliant manager Craig Dodge. My interview with him is here on “Visit Angkor.”
Why not just wear a t-shirt with an imprint?
Yes, I have been asked this question many times. What happens when you walk around Cambodia with a t-shirt that says “I do not buy anything from children?” Do you really think that you will be approached less by children? Remember, with that t-shirt you don’t help any adults who need to feed their children and want to send them to school instead of making them beg. Although, you could simply let Cambodian merchants sell shirts like that. Shirts with the print, “No Tuk Tuk”, are already available in every possible variation.
Are you going to Cambodia?
I am very curious about your opinion and whether you will try the handout. If you do try it, I’d be thrilled if you would write about your experiences. You could include a photo or even a small video. Maybe you will travel without the handout, that’s great as well, as I already mentioned. Because no matter what, by buying from adults, you make an important contribution. It’s also helpful for the local people in Cambodia to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle without being dependent on the help of others, or sending their children to sell or beg or even putting them in an orphanage. If you like what you’ve read subscribe to my blog! Enter your e-mail address here and all new posts and announcements will be sent directly to your mailbox.
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