The boy is perhaps four, definitely not more than five years old. He is heading to Mith Samlanh's drop-in center for street children in Phnom Penh. He is wearing a pair of blue shorts that are a little too big, nothing more. No shoes, no shirt, no belt. With his one free hand he pulls up his pants to keep them from falling down. With the other hand he picks up an empty bottle and puts it in a large plastic bag that he carries over his shoulder. Later today, he will sell the recyclable material that he has gathered. He walks with a firm step and it is obvious that he has been here before. When he steps over the threshold, he releases the bag and grabs a large, red plastic horse. He sits on it and jumps along with two other children his age. He laughs out loud.
Childhood supports Mith Samlahn’s work with street children in Phnom Penh and the drop-in center where the young boy is spending his day, is the second step in their support chain. It is a place where children can play, get access to basic education, health care and counseling on the path on leaving the street. Mith Samlahn does not share food and does not offer overnight accommodations for the children since this has shown to keep the children on the streets. The goal is to provide the support needed to get kids off the streets, back to school, and into a family environment.