How Migration Endangers Children: a Q&A, How You Can Help

Increasingly long periods of drought have made it difficult for families in rural areas to support their children without migrating for work.

What does migration have to do with Holt’s mission in Cambodia?

In every country where Holt works, Holt sponsors and donors help vulnerable children grow up with the love and stability of a family — either by helping them stay in the loving care of their birth family, or uniting them with a loving, permanent family through adoption. But in Cambodia, a country where more and more families migrate to big cities or neighboring countries in search of work, helping families stay together has become an even greater challenge.

Why do families migrate?

Rural areas of Cambodia remain largely undeveloped, providing few job opportunities besides farming. But even if families own land, increasingly long periods of drought have made it difficult for them to grow enough to support their children year-round.

Desperate to feed their families, many parents will migrate to big cities to find work in garment factories, as tuk tuk drivers or in other jobs not available in their home provinces. Some families in Cambodia will even cross the border to Thailand or other countries where they can more easily find work — often in construction or in Thailand’s booming tourist industry.

How does migration endanger children?

Migration poses specific dangers to children — whether parents choose to bring their children or leave them  at home. When parents choose to leave their children at home, they often have no choice but to trust them to the care of elderly relatives who can barely afford to feed themselves. When left behind in the village, without the attention of their parents, children are at greater risk of dropping out of school — and vulnerable to neglect and abuse.

If parents bring their children with them, however, the risks are also great. The journey itself can be treacherous. And once they arrive, they often live in dangerous slum communities where children can easily fall prey to predators — especially when parents have to work long hours to earn an income. It’s hard to enroll children in school without legal documents, so they either stay home alone, unsupervised, or go to work with their parents — sometimes on dangerous construction sites.

How is Holt helping to prevent unsafe migration in Cambodia?

Four years ago, with a grant from the GHR Foundation, Holt launched a program in Battambang, Cambodia to help strengthen families at risk of separation and reunite children already separated from their families due to poverty. Situated in northwest Cambodia in a region particularly prone to drought, Battambang has one of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in the country. As the city center sits 200 miles from the border,  some people illegally migrate to Thailand to find work.

Through the family strengthening program, Holt social workers go out into the community and identify families at risk of separation. They provide counseling, address specific needs, enroll children in Holt’s child sponsorship program and help families create small businesses— making it possible for them to earn an income and support their children without having to migrate for work. In some cases, Holt social workers also help to reunite children with parents who have already migrated for work.

How can you help prevent unsafe migration and keep families together?

SPONSOR A CHILD: When you sponsor a child in Cambodia or another country, you provide monthly support to help keep their family together! Visit holtinternational.org/sponsorship or contact a sponsorship representative at 1-888-355-HOLT (4658) or sponsorship@holtinternational.org to learn about a child who needs your help staying in the loving care of their family.

GIVE A SMALL BUSINESS MICROGRANT: Your one-time Gift of Hope will provide the tools and resources a family needs to start a small business — helping them support their children and earn enough income so they don’t have to migrate to find work.

Read one mom’s story of migrating over the border in search of work, and how sponsors and donors helped her reunite with her children!

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