Having collected garbage for hours, Dira Beung rested under the shadow of a Makhob tree (similar to a cherry tree, with fruit five times smaller than a cherry fruit). A few minutes later, a man around 40 years of age approached her.
Dira used to hear news in television, and it showed many rape cases happening on girls and women.
“I was afraid that man would rape me. I ran a way very fast,” Dira says, adding she could not forget to take a sack of recycle garbage that she worked hard to collect it.
Forms of child labour in Cambodia include working in brick factory, domestic worker, child entertainment, agriculture, construction worker, scavenger and other industries.
Dira, now 18, is living with a single mother and seven siblings. She is the sixth child of the family. Her father died from tuberculosis since she was seven years old. After the death of the father, the family had no financial stability.
“We were so poor. We did not have food to eat. We earned a day for a morning meal but not evening meal."
“We were so poor. We did not have food to eat. We earned a day for a morning meal but not evening meal, thus I stopped my schooling since I was in 2nd grade. I needed to scavenge the junk in order to earn more money,” Dira says.
Dira grew up in Battambang town, northwest of Cambodia. She scavenged the junk at piles of garbage, market and sewage place. All items made of plastic, steel, aluminum, stainless copper, and paper box were very important for Dira to raise money for food.
“My foot got cut by glass debris,” Dira recalled her experience.
One day, Dira and her friends who work as scavenger were sitting at the gate of a karaoke entertainment place. A staff wearing an orange shirt (World Vision’s T-shirt) came and asked them if they wanted to study in a drop-in-centre.
Dira and her friends did not respond quickly, but they went back home and asked their parents for an agreement.
Dira and her close friend Veasna Som, got into the centre and received non-formal education for a year. In the meantime, Dira learned a new skill for her life, hairdressing, which is supported by Social Mobilization against Child Labor Project (SMCLP) of World Vision.
“Now I can do the face makeup, polish and paint the nails, cut and dye or highlight the hair,” Dira says.
After learning the skill, World Vision also partially supported Dira and Veasna to run a hairdressing shop in the village. They could earn between 10 and 17.5 US dollars a day from the business.
Having had a difficult experience when she was young, Dira does not want her younger sister and brother to follow her footsteps.
“I want them to study until they finish the class. I do not want Phinat (her younder sister) to scavenge because she is too young and she could be at risk of rape or traffic accidents.”
Phinat, 12, is the second outstanding student in the class of thirty students. Dira dreams that Phinat becomes an accountant in the future
“My older sister encourages me to study hard. She doesn’t allow me to pick up junk,” Phinat says.
“If I did not meet World Vision, I would have become a staff in the casino who distributes the cards and the place is full of jealousy,” Dira says.
SMCLP has operated since 2009, supporting around 370 children aging between 5 and 17 year old. The children get non-formal education, enjoy reading and playing in library, and receive counseling, life skills knowledge and vocational training. World Vision also established a child protection network in the project target areas, raising awareness on child labour and promoting child rights by working with community people.