The ChildSafe Network, delivered by Friends International, is helping to protect vulnerable children in tourism destinations across Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia. Travellers can sometimes unknowingly put children at risk of exploitation, and the ChildSafe 7 Tips helps tourists make the right choices in responsible travel to advocate child safety. Beyond that, ChildSafe is also working behind the scenes to get children off the streets, through vocational training, supporting their parents through employment, and generating employment through social ventures.
Here’s a snapshot of some of their key achievements, and reasons why Wild Asia has identified them as one of our 2014 Finalists in the category Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative…
- The ChildSafe Network is a holistic and multifaceted child protection program run by Friends International since 2004, both globally and in destination countries (most well known in Cambodia) throughout South East Asia.
- The aim is to raise awareness of child protection through the tourism industry, through media campaigns, grassroots campaigning, training of tourists, training and certification of businesses, supporting the income generation of marginalized families, and responding to child abuse through the ChildSafe Hotline.
- By providing training and certification to tourism businesses, more establishments are issuing child protection policies, and communicating messages to travellers. To date around 5,000 businesses are now engaged in promoting child safety through tourism.
- The ChildSafe 7 Tips for Travellers is now available in nine languages, and published in international departure airports and agencies, and at arrival airports and agencies in this region. More than 3 million travellers have been exposed to this campaign.
- Conducts awareness raising on the streets and in communities of the at risk children, educating them how they can protect themselves and where they can seek help.
- Through their hotline, they are protecting around 2,000 children per year. Social workers respond to calls to safeguard children.
- They have retail outlets providing opportunities for caregivers to sell products they make and provide financial stability to keep their children in school. In 2013 sales amounted to $450,000, supporting 450 caregivers and over 1,300 children, as well as providing income for Friend’s other social service programmes.
- Across our region, there are country specific ethical tourism issues. For example, in Cambodia orphanage tourism is prevalent, as are baby milk scams and begging. ChildSafe responds to specific challenges, creating campaigns to raise awareness and tackle the issue through educational materials.
- Whilst many of their funding needs are met through generous donations, their social enterprise model is increasing and making the programme more financially sustainable. In the busy tourist town of Siem Reap alone, you can support their work by eating at their restaurant, shopping at one of their retail outlets, getting your hair done at their salon, or fixing your moto and their new bike repair shop.
For more information about the ChildSafe Network, please visit their website.
(Photo credit Robert Buchan)