Sok Sabay Children Shelter Cambodia

Written by Anastasia Ebbinghaus, 17yrs of age.
Photos at the end.

This past summer, myself and three High School friends from Geneva Switzerland had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing children in Cambodia who had been abandoned by their families, abused or left to fend for themselves in the streets. We were in the socially, economically and politically wounded country of Cambodia for almost 2 weeks and learned first hand about the plight of the people of this beautiful country. Cambodia was left in ruins after a horrific war that stripped people of their dignity, their mental sanity and capacity to thrive in a democratic society. The people of Cambodia are the poorest in all of South East Asia. Many people live in destitute slums, are uneducated and have little hope for improving their situation. To this end, many children are left abandoned or are mistreated and sold into the rampant sex trade. We saw this first hand. No one can prepare you for this. We were shocked, deeply saddened and changed for life.

My friends and I spent most of our time with the 50+ children of Sok Sabay. This amazing children`s shelter was started by Marie Cammal, with my family supporting her and the children for the past 15 years. The children of Sok Sabay were either found in garbage dumps, brought to Sok Sabay by gravely ill or maimed women, or found in the streets.

What Marie provides for them at Sok Sabay transforms their lives. The children are incredibly vivacious and full of joy and life and we did not realize the horrors they had lived until we spoke with Marie and she told us a few of their stories. Sok Sabay aims to provide these children with protection, education and love, which are not things they would have otherwise. The children remain at Sok Sabay through high school and some of them go on to university. Marie had 11 students graduating University this past year alone. She is diligent in helping them find good employment after they graduate which makes her program both sustainable and unique. It is a chance at a real life.

After spending a few days with the children we fell in love with them (as cheesy as it sounds) and realized that we wanted to leave them with more than the school supplies, swim gear and 1,500 CHF that we raised. We began sponsoring one of the young children that did not yet have a “God-Parent Sponsor” (the money for sponsoring children goes towards their education, clothing, food and other necessities). The girl we now sponsor is Pascale and has a twin sister called Nathalie. These two girls are the most entertaining, hilarious and artistic girls we had ever met and we wanted to help them stay together and get a proper education, which will only be accomplished by them remaining within the care and protection of Sok Sabay’s premisses. Marie has a guard that sits out front the gates, guarding the children and young adults through the night, as these children are worth money on the open market. The children cannot move about freely on the streets of Cambodia. The teenagers do not leave the property at will to develop social relationships with classmates nor go for walks on their own - basic freedoms we all have and take for granted. They begin to separate themselves, a little, from the shelter of Sok Sabay when they go to University and live in apartments close by.

While at Sok Sabay we were involved in the rescue of a young girl from a slum. She had been being sexually abused by her father and uncle for the past 3 years. It was a traumatic event. The love and kindness and care that Marie provided for this girl was selfless. The other children of Sok Sabay welcomed her into the center and treated her with respect, dignity and friendship. It was so moving, nothing can really describe the emotions we felt at the time and still feel.

After returning from Cambodia we realized just how lucky we are. Again, we realize this sounds incredibly cliché but there is nothing more close to the truth. As high school students in our last year of school we are nearing a point in our lives where we have many decisions to make: What do we want to study? Which school do we want to attend? Which country? Which continent? We understand that many people in the world do not get the same opportunities that we have. For us we are faced with these decisions and might worry that we might not make the right choice. This seems ferociously trivial when faced with the fact that the children that we fell in love with and had so much joy with, have no true freedom of movement in their war torn country, or opportunities outside of what Marie, and those who support Sok Sabay, can give them. They are in essence prisoners of the situation they were born into, whereas we have so many opportunities.

It is our job to provide those less fortunate than us with the tools to help them succeed in life and turn their lives into something. Marie, the founder and leader of Sok Sabay’s plight against the mistreatment of children in Cambodia, has started this wonderful organization to keep these children off the streets. However she needs our help. We three went and have witnessed first hand how much these people need our aid and how beneficial Sok Sabay is to their lives, however we cannot help them alone. We need your help and donations to help Sok Sabay to the best of our abilities and continue to provide these children with an escape route from poverty and abuse.

Please help us reach our goal of raising 15,000 USD for Sok Sabay. This money will go toward emergency funds, medical funds, upkeep of buildings and for rescuing more children in need.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child of sok sabay it is really easy to do. Just follow the link Marie and the children of Sok Sabay will be happy to hear from you and happy to develop a long lasting relationship with you and your family.

With gratitude for the life we live and your generousity.

Anastasia, Julian and Lea.

Marie Cammal, the Founder of Sok Sabay. Marie visited our school in 2007 to help raise awareness of Child Labor and speak to students about the Rights of Children. Our school raised funds, over 3 years to help the children of Sok Sabay. The funds went to building a music room and a dormatory for 12 children.

Building behind was built with funds donated through our school. Thank you families of Collège du Léman! 

Time for school. Half the children go to school in the AM the remainder in the PM. They walk to school as a group and work on homework together in the outdoor common space.

Teaching younger children songs from the Lion King

A break from school or being within the walls of Sok Sabay.  Thank you friends in Switzerland and the USA for the donated goggles and swim suits that we brought  with us!

Sok Sabay Common Space. When it rains, the area gets flooded in minutes. Rain also moves everyone into action as all the children cover all the tables and the clothing racks with the laundry with plastic sheeting. The children are so great at helping each other and helping with daily chores, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Building strong relationships and freindships for life

Teaching the children how to bake muffins!
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Annette Ebbinghaus 
Atlanta, GA
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