On Monday February 21st Chaktomuk Conference Hall filled with a varied and excited audience ready to view a performance by our very own Mith Samlanh students in the Cambodian National Popular Art Contest.
This play touched on many of the issues facing marginalized families and their children in modern Cambodia, with the action moving from rural Cambodia to the streets of Phnom Penh. We saw how poverty causes desperate situations within families – the poor rural family featured in the play suffer terribly as the mother is murdered by an alcoholic and abusive father who is jailed for his crime, leaving grandmother to care for three children and to be pressurized into deciding to send her 15 year old granddaughter, Sopheap, to the city to earn money to send back home. Once in Phnom Penh, however, the young woman falls prey to traffickers and is forced into prostitution, facing emotional and physical torture by the brothel owner and being forcibly injected with drugs.
Eventually one of the girls manages to escape and get help. Sopheap and the other girls are rescued by the police, and are supported to change their lives for the better by enrolling for vocational training.
This powerful story had many of the audience in tears – for the performers it must have brought back memories of the difficult lives they had led also, but there was time for some laughter among the sadness. The play addressed many of the key issues that Mith Samlanh and Friends-International face in their daily work with these children and young people, including –
• Domestic violence – the effect it has on child development, and how prevention of this will help children toward a better future.
• Migration – the reality and risks.
• Drugs – health and development risks.
The final result will be announced on March 3rd, but whatever the outcome we are immensely proud of the Mith Samlanh students for the way they have worked to produce an outstanding drama about real issues facing young people like themselves, and how there are ways of dealing with these that bring hope for a better future.