Holt first began serving children and families in Cambodia in the 1970s, when we partnered with a local organization to help thousands of Cambodian refugees who fled across the border in search of safety from war. Not until two decades later, however, did we launch Holt programs in the region. Shortly afterward, in 1994, we had to suspend programs in response to ongoing instability. We returned in 2005, and ever since, Holt's programs have sought to protect children from extreme poverty, child trafficking, child labor and exploitation, as well as help to stabilize the most vulnerable families in the region and prevent child abandonment.
Provinces with Holt family strengthening programs
From 1975-1979, more than one in four Cambodians perished during the genocidal revolution of the Communist Khmer Rouge — and those who survived were left to deal with the aftermath. Cambodia still struggles to recover. Today, more than half of the population is younger than 22. Pervasive poverty continues to threaten the safety of children and families. National education systems are lacking. There is limited to no access to safe healthcare in many regions. And in desperate search of work, parents often migrate hundreds of miles from their homes and villages, which puts children at increased risk of trafficking and exploitation.
Around the world, parents often relinquish their child to orphanage care not because they aren't loved — but out of desperation to keep their child alive and in school. This is especially true and common in Cambodia, where malnutrition, illness and lack of safe housing are serious threats to a child's health and safety. Through our programs in the region, we aim to prevent child abandonment, reunify children in orphanages with their families, and improve social welfare practices by working alongside local, regional and national government.
The poverty in Cambodia is among the worst I've ever seen. It's not just that families or communities are poor — it's that several issues compound, and there is no way for families to receive help. In addition to lacking food, one parent may have a disease that would be easily controlled by medication, but that medicine is too expensive or too hard to find in their very rural community. Or, I meet many families who have built their homes from scraps of materials because they can't afford the wood to build their whole house at once, and in addition to poor housing, their only water source makes them sick. There are many reasons why children and families in Cambodia feel hopeless and afraid to dream of a better future. But, with the support of donors and sponsors, you can make a difference for one child. Sponsorship donations keep kids in school and help entire families transform their lives and communities. Kind and generous donors help to build new homes and schools and provide things like pigs and cows, which are miraculous for families. The impact of your donation in Cambodia is very large, and on behalf of the children and families we serve, thank you for the work you do.
There are so many ways for you to advocate for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in Cambodia!