UNICEF works with one objective in mind: to help children and adolescents reach their full potential in a safe environment. In Cambodia, thousands of children are pushed onto the margins of society, facing many forms of abuse–physical, psychological or emotional. Family separation is one of the leading challenges to protecting children in Cambodia.
Children from broken families are at greatest risk of joining the many thousands of children living or working on the streets. Children on the streets are at risk of violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, dangerous child labour and exploitation, and have heightened exposure to drug use, unsafe sexual activities and gang crime.
Many people do not know how to react to situations of child abuse. They can feel disempowered, or worse, without even knowing it they can adopt behaviours that are harmful to children.
Together with our partners we are committed to fighting child abuse by empowering individuals with the knowledge they need to make better decisions. We do this so that their behaviour can be part of the solution, not the problem.
In recent years the number of tourists to Cambodia has increased significantly. Many of these tourists want to visit orphanages, and some of them are volunteers who engage in ‘voluntourism’.
UNICEF urges volunteers not to work in residential care facilities. Vulnerable children in institutions face emotional stress when they bond with volunteers, who subsequently leave them.
The lack of background checks on volunteers increases the risk of abuse. Even if most of the volunteers are well-intentioned people who want to do good for children, this opportunity allows predators to gain entry and access as well, exposing children to enormous risks.
Instead, we strongly encourage volunteers who want to make a contribution in Cambodia to work only with organizations that have shifted their focus to community-based support, not institutional care. We urge volunteers who do not have qualifications and professional training not to work directly with children. In many countries with rigorous child protection systems and policies, only trained professionals are allowed to be in contact with children. Children in Cambodia deserve no less.
Volunteers with the relevant skills can play an important role in work not directly related to caring for children, for example by helping local organizations improve their administrative systems, train their staff or fundraise.
Whether you are volunteering, visiting or living in Cambodia, if you see a child in danger, call the ChildSafe hotline, where social workers will be able to take action to protect the child:
012-311-112 (Phnom Penh)
017-358-758 (Siem Reap)
012 311 112 (Phnom Penh)
017 358 758 (Siem Reap)
012 478 100 (Sihanoukville)
Learn more about the dangers of voluntourism here
Find out how to pick your volunteering experience responsibly here
Discover the great work our partner is doing with the ChildSafe movement here