Turning dreams into reality: reflections from a street outreach worker

Street outreach

 

“When you grow up in poverty and all the people you know live on the streets or in the slums, it is hard to imagine a different life for yourself.”

Posted 7th August 2017 in Community, News

“What I hope for is that all the children that I meet no longer live on the streets or in the slums someday.”

This is the wish of Kan, CCT Social Worker, who primarily works with street-connected children and youth in Battambang.

“Counselling, educational support, and material goods such as clothes and books are some of the many things I provide the kids with. I also work closely with CCT’s medical team to make sure children on the streets who are sick can access the medical treatment they need.”

Street-connected children often beg or collect trash to survive, living hand-to-mouth without opportunities to get off the streets. Street outreach services are at the forefront of expanding educational and employment opportunities for street-connected children and youth in Battambang. However, linking street-connected children to life-changing opportunities is only one part of the solution.

“When you grow up in poverty and all the people you know live on the streets or in the slums, it is hard to imagine a different life for yourself. I spend a lot of time with the children, getting to know them and building trust. I let them know they can make positive changes in their lives if they want to and that I am here to help them.”

After years of working with vulnerable children, Kan has seen many getting off the streets and thriving, but some staying on.

“If we support a child beggar or trash collector to get an education, but their family doesn’t support the decision, there is a high chance the child will continue to work on the streets. A supportive family environment is vital for a child’s success and this is why I not only work with children but also with their families.”

Street-connected families often face myriad issues, but much of Kan’s work is focused on establishing a reliable, trusting relationship.

“I’m always on call and ready to help. This is why people in the slum communities trust me and know they can count on me when they have a problem.”

With many years of social work under his belt, Kan knows that change doesn’t happen overnight but that it is possible.

“Before, most of the kids I worked with collected trash. Now there are fewer and fewer children doing this in Battambang. A lot of these kids are now in schools. Others went into vocational training and now earn a salary that allows them to provide for themselves and for their family.”

Though street outreach isn’t easy, being in a position to help is endlessly rewarding.

“When you work with highly vulnerable children, you grow to care a lot for them and it’s hard to leave work behind when the day is over. But helping children turn their dreams into reality – that’s the most rewarding bit of all.”