First of all, I would like to explain why I posted this pic on my previous blog.

As I mentioned it was posted on facebook by my friend Vana. I commented and as it received many comments later it kept showing up on my facebook page for several days. Every time I saw it, it brought tears to my eyes. Yes! I feel for these kids!

However, I do not accept Westerners making derogatory comments about Cambodia and Cambodians. (To put this in perspective, I am an Australian of English ancestry.) So many Westerners behave like we have it all together. I'm sorry—I consider this to be complete and utter bullshit! That is why I made the comparison that I did. As far as I'm concerned, my observations still stand.

Are these kids vulnerable? Yes, they are. That is what concerns me. But please don't try to tell me that kids living supposedly securely in Western families are not vulnerable. At the foot of this blog entry you'll find some links with information on child abuse in the UK and USA‬. Check it out for yourselves.

My last visit to Cambodia was late in 2010. I spent a few weeks in Phnom Penh in a guesthouse in an area where many homeless families hang out. I could look down from my window and see kids sleeping in the street. I was able to observe their lifestyle. There are literally hundreds of homeless people in that neighbourhood. It is a whole alternative community.

My observation was that kids were rarely, if ever, left alone overnight. There always appeared to be an adult with them. In the morning parents would bathe their kids in the street using water from plastic bottles. Not sure how clean it was but the point is that they cared enough about their kids to give them a bath. And with all those community members keeping an eye on the kids, I would imagine that if anyone tried to pick one up with evil intent there would be someone who would step in fairly quickly.

My observation is that there are two types of homeless kids in Phnom Penh. There are those who are there with their families (and, as I said, a supportive community) and there are teenagers and preteens who have run away from home. These are the ones who are, in my opinion, more vulnerable. Unless they find a place in a home for homeless kids (yes they exist), there is no one to keep an eye on them. I would often see these kids sniffing glue. But once again we Westerners can't claim to not have similar problems. How many kids in our communities experiment with drugs?

There are positive developments. I was talking with my friend Vana today and he told me of a man he has met from Switzerland who invests about $1 million a year in projects to help homeless Cambodian kids. I'm pleased to say there is a good side to this story.