Cambodia and Zambia are five and a half thousand miles apart but Cambodia YMCA and Zambia YMCA have some common ground: both are running projects to support young people and children who, out of poverty and hunger, are forced to live on the streets.

There are hundreds of thousands of children and young people living on the streets in Zambia and Cambodia – and they are in great danger. On the streets they are at risk of starvation, sexual and physical abuse, and becoming alcohol and drug dependent. Without access to education or food, they are forced to turn to begging or prostitution just to get a meal.

“I don’t like begging but there is no choice,” says one boy. “I am too old for people to have pity on me. They think I am just a thief, but I was not always like this; I was forced to become this way because of hunger.”

Zambia YMCA and Cambodia YMCA are running independent projects which enable young people to gain the skills and security they need to keep them safely off the streets.

Earlier this year, staff from these two YMCAs met in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, to show solidarity with each other, talk through ideas, and share the knowledge and experience they have gained through their projects.

Sokthea Phay of Cambodia YMCA explains the reason for the two countries’ collaboration, and tells us how he witnessed the positive impact that Zambia YMCA’s project has had on some young people:

“The situation of street children and young people and vulnerable households is very similar to Cambodia’s… I visited some compound areas and joined outreach work with peer educators and peer leaders in Lusaka to assess the impact to date of project activities on beneficiaries… Through socialising and peer educators, vulnerable young people can build hope, trust, and love among their group. Through the project there, some street youths have given up using drugs; they decided instead to join recreational activities with Zambia YMCA.”

The project in Zambia is helping desperately hungry street children like Leonard, age 8, to build a better, more secure, future for himself.

The project Phnom Penh, Cambodia offers similar assistance to starving street children and young people.