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Organization for Street Children Celebrates 15 Years

A group of young children are learning how to draw in Friends International and Mith Samlanh Organization in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Friends International, a development group that helps street children build life skills, celebrated its 15th anniversary Friday, with an exhibition of children’s art and a cocktail party at its newest restaurant.

The group has helped thousands of children “who face daily violence and experience a high level of drug use to reintegrate into their families, public school, vocational training and then employment,” Map Somaya, its program director, told VOA Khmer.

The art exhibition shows works from children created during the lifetime of the organization at Romdeng restaurant, which belongs to the organization and is used to help train children in restaurant work, from designing menus to preparing and serving food.

Friends, which also goes by the Khmer name Mith Samlanh, has a team of 250 staff that help around 19,000 children per year, including primary classes for 750 children and 11 vocational courses for about 850. It also provides temporary accommodation for many.

“Our Cambodian and foreign customers love to order the famous fish amok, curry saramann and beef stir-fried with red ants,” said Sophon, a student chef at Romdeng.

Artwork on display includes work like “Flowers in the Garden,” by a nine-year-old named Vatey, who said she likes nature and escaping outside when she feels angry. Seeing flowers and trees make her calmer, she said.