• Joe Stoltenow

Who Are The Street Kids?

Updated: Jun 23, 2018

2017 has been off to a great start for Viya and me as we move forward with our plans t o open our new street children’s ministry here in Battambang. We have been working toward a number of goals to have our ministry up and running by the start of the 2017-18 school year. Tasks such as finding schools for our kids to attend, finding property to rent for our center, and most importantly, enrolling kids into our program, have been our highest priorities. But before we move any further we’d like to answer some questions people are frequently asking by beginning with the most basic question:

Who are the street kids?

To truly understand this question we’d have to look back in history to the tragic events that occurred in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. In an attempt to rid Cambodia of all western influence, communist dictator Pol Pot and his forces known as the Khmer Rouge committed mass genocide against the Cambodian people. Targeting the highly educated and religious leaders of the country, over 2 million Cambodians were killed making it the second worst mass genocide in the history of the world.

Due to the actions of the Khmer Rouge, more than fifty percent of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 22. Cambodia is a broken country.  While it’s slowly improving every day, it still has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. I’ve often described the classes of Cambodia as having a high upper class and an impoverished lower class with little to no middle ground. The general belief in Cambodia is if you are content with where you are in life and don’t complain, then in your next life you will be rewarded.

This is the "street" where several of our street kids live. One room houses are made of sheet metal and house up to six family members.

Lets talk street!

So let’s talk about the street kids. The kids we work with in Battambang are homeless and very poor. Some live in the slums and others live in abandoned buildings, Most just live on the sidewalk with their families. Some of their parents have low paying jobs in construction or selling food from roadside shops, but their main source of income is their children. When the sun goes down in Battambang and the night vendors and restaurants open, the street kids begin their long night of begging any and everyone they see.

The kids are usually very dirty, un-kept, and not well behaved. Besides not getting baths, they also don’t eat on a regular basis with most kids only receiving one meal a day. On top of that, their teeth are almost all rotten and have permanent damage to their gums. What’s worse, there is a great risk of sickness and infection among the kids and their families, with diseases like malaria, typhoid, and in some cases HIV. Due to these factors, there are very few people or groups in Cambodia who are willing to work with street kids.

This is where the Lord has led Viya and I come in. Through our new program we will not only start putting these kids in school, we will also be an instrument of the Holy Spirit as we bring the Word of God and the love of Jesus to them through daily Bible classes. We will provide breakfast, baths, tutoring, and we’ve even partnered with Trinity Lutheran Church here in Battambang who have invited us to bring the kids to church on Sundays.

Together, with our partners at Global Lutheran Outreach, our goal is to introduce Jesus into the lives of these children and show them that through His Word they are destined for so much more than a life of poverty. Our work here in Cambodia is truly a mission of Witness, Mercy and Life-together.

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