Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

I was just like a frog in a well. I could not see the world, just the sky above me,” says 24-year-old Kdeb from rural Cambodia.

Youth unemployment is a major problem in Cambodia, especially in remote villages. To change this, ChildFund-supported youth groups are helping disadvantaged young people improve their skills and find meaningful jobs.

Kdeb is one youth whose life has turned around after participating in her local Community Voices program: “I can’t compare myself now to the person I was before I joined my local youth group.”

With Kdeb’s mother died when she was just eight months old, she was left in the custody of her alcoholic father who also passed away when Kdeb was young. Moving in with her grandparents, Kdeb finished high school but did not have enough money to go to university. After an unsuccessful job search, she believed she was destined to remain unemployed.

Through the group, Kdeb and other local youth learned how to start their own businesses to benefit their community. They also held fundraisers for local causes, even helping to repair roads and buildings that were damaged by storms.

Most importantly, the group gave its young participants an opportunity to contribute to the commune development plan, helping them become an important link between the local government and members of their community.

After excelling in, and leading, group activities, Kdeb secured a position in the office of her local government. She is now able to assist her elderly grandparents financially, and eventually hopes to save enough money to go to university.

“Without being involved in the ChildFund-supported youth group, I would not be who I am or where I am today.”

ChildFund Australia is deeply concerned about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, as an estimated 400,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border to escape civil conflict.

The situation is critical, particularly for the most vulnerable members of the refugee population—young children, mothers and the elderly. Existing camps in Bangladesh, one of Asia’s poorest nations, are ill-equipped to deal with this sudden influx, especially as the nation recovers from extreme and torrential monsoon rains. These have resulted in flooding, landslides and the devastation of local communities.

ChildFund Australia is partnering with ActionAid Bangladesh to deliver critical support to people in refugee camps. Initial distributions will focus on emergency food including rice and lentils, as well as clean drinking water. Following that, the focus will be on providing materials for emergency shelter and distributing hygiene kits containing sanitary towels, soap, clean underwear and disinfectant, as well as establishing women-friendly spaces.

“A large proportion of the refugees arriving are children and the camps do not fulfil minimum standards for humanitarian response, lacking basic shelter, food, water and access to healthcare,” said ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence. “ChildFund warns that immediate action must be taken before conditions worsen.

“Without emergency aid, thousands of lives are at risk. Particular attention must be given to the protection of children on the move. Having survived a long, gruelling journey from home, many are deeply traumatised and some have become separated from family members, making them extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.”

Photo credit: Depo Photos/ABACA