In a country where extreme poverty is pervasive – an estimated one-third of Cambodia's population live on less than a US$1 a day – the tourism port activities of Sihanoukville continue to attract economic migrants seeking a better life.
The result is the expansion of slums and greater numbers of children and youth living on the streets. These children miss out on education and become exposed to violence, abuse, drug use and isolation.
Over the last decade, M'Lop Tapang has provided refuge and care for the street children of this south-western port town. The organisation offers access to education and training, creative and recreational activities and reintegration with families, while working closely with the community to ensure protection from all forms of abuse.
It also encourages disadvantaged children to embrace their childhood, while helping them to become responsible adults and productive, independent members of society.
In 2013, more than 3,000 children attended M'Lop Tapang's education programmes, 1,000 calls were received by the 24-hour confidential helpline and over 100 children were reintegrated into their family environments.
A growing number of local businesses are joining the national ChildSafe Network and contacting M'Lop Tapang to hire their vocational training graduates, with more than 40 young people finding employment in 2013.
Through its outreach programmes, more than 5,000 community members have been trained to understand issues related to child protection.
Wider change in the community over the past 10 years has been demonstrated by a steady increase in enquiries from poor families hoping to send their children to school. Local authorities are also increasingly calling on M'Lop Tapang's services as an alternative to sending young people to prison for non-violent crimes.
Photos: Kimlong Meng / Majority World