Prime Minister Hun Sen and several other dignitaries were on hand Thursday to inaugurate the first in what some officials hope will be a series of children’s villages, where orphaned or abandoned children can join together to fight against the poverty and degradation that strikes so many young Cambodians.
The Phnom Penh children’s village—14 family houses on 1.5 hectares of land in Russei Keo district—will house 150 children. Between 10 and 14 children will live together with a “mother figure” who will look after their health and education, said Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Social Affairs, Labor, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation.
“I hope that this children’s village will be an example of a way to take care of abandoned children and/or orphans, allowing them to become full members of society, ready to actively participate in the development of their country,” Ith Sam Heng said.
The project, developed and built with $1.5 million from the Austrian-based NGO SOS-Kinderdorf International, is the first of at least three such orphans centers government officials hope to build in Cambodia, Ith Sam Heng said. Construction is already under way on a similar compound in Siem Reap province and authorities are planning to build another in Battambang province, Ith Sam Heng said.
In his remarks, Hun Sen said he hoped to build between 10 and 20 such children’s villages.
“Cambodia has a lot of orphans and abandoned children. Even though the genocide has stopped, we are left with a lot of orphans,” Hun Sen said.
Given the government’s poverty, it is a minor miracle Cambodia has managed to keep so many of its orphans alive, Hun Sen added.
“With our situation at Year Zero, and with empty hands, we still did not allow these children to starve,” he said.