“I don’t want money, I just want milk!” The little girl repeated her line over and over while tugging at my sleeve with one arm, and holding her infant sibling and an empty bottle in the other. I knew it was a scam, but it still broke my heart. Cambodia has become known for the street children that feed tourists lines in order to get money, but knowing about it and seeing it are totally different.
The girl caught site of my necklace, and momentarily broke from her script. “Ohhh, bicycle!” she exclaimed, grabbing the pendant around my neck for a closer look. For that one moment, I saw a glimpse of the happy, 6 or 7-year old child she could have been if her circumstances were different. It only lasted a second, and then she began repeating her line. “I don’t want money, I just want milk! I don’t want money, I just want milk!”
As much as it hurt, we didn’t give the little girl anything. But after this encounter, I knew I wanted to do something beneficial for Cambodia’s street kids before we left. A quick internet search revealed that a local restaurant, The Green Star, benefits a non-profit (The Green Gecko Project) that cares for and educates former Cambodian street kids. We had a delicious meal there, and left with full bellies and hearts, knowing something so simple as having a meal could help kids like the girl we met.
On our way out, we left a small donation, and by the time we reached our hotel, we already had an email from one of The Green Star volunteers thanking us. The thing about Cambodia is, a small amount of money can make a big difference. A nice meal in a nice restaurant (think white table clothes and cloth napkins) will cost you about $3 per entree, and about $1 for a drink. Cambodia is still recovering from an absolutely devastating civil war that began in the 70′s and really, is still being resolved–a war which resulted in 25% of the country’s population being killed. Because these atrocities are not too far in the past (anyone in their 30′s must have survived it), the countries wounds are still very visible, and part of that includes crushing poverty. Parents that live in poverty (and often suffer from drug addiction or other problems) see no way out, and so they send their children to the streets to beg for money. The Green Gecko Project houses 70 former street kids and offers support to their families, something that is vital in a country with very few social services.
It’s definitely a depressing situation, but the good news is, a little money goes a long ways. I can’t find it now, but I first read on The Green Gecko Project website that it only costs about $1 a day to feed each child. $1 means so little to most Westerners. If $1 fell out of your pocket during the day, would you even notice? And more importantly, would you even care? I know I wouldn’t. After all, it’s just $1. But $1 is a meal for a hungry kid in Cambodia. It could also be a book for their education, some soap for a much needed bath, or a pair of shoes. $1 can brighten the day of a child in Cambodia.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to introduce The Green Gecko Project to the readers of this blog, and ask that if you can, send a little something their way. Remember, even $1 helps! If you can’t make a donation, I simply ask that you send these Cambodia children your positive thoughts and prayers! To get things started, Matt and I are donating $70 ($1 for each of the children that live there now). If you make a donation, feel free to tell us in the comments! I’d love to see if we can do some good in a small corner of the world on this Christmas Day.
As always, thank for reading, and Merry Christmas!