Sovannarith Sam is the executive director of the child protection organisation ‘Damnok Toek’. It takes care of around 3,500 marginalised children each year in the cities of Phnom Penh, Poipet and Neak Loeung. In Poipet, on the border with Thailand, Sovannarith Sam runs various drop-in centres in which approximately 750 children, who live and work on the street, find refuge. They keep themselves and their families afloat – by carrying heavy loads, collecting waste, as beggars or, in the worst case, as child prostitutes. In the drop-in centres, the children can recover from the strains of their work. They are given a hot meal and can have a shower.
‘Damnok Toek’ also offers these children a basic education. Wherever possible, they are prepared for admission to a mainstream state school. In cooperation with public authorities and private business, the aid organisation also enables the boys and girls to gain a vocational qualification and helps them to get apprenticeships, work placements or jobs.
Yves Serra, CEO and President of Georg Fischer as well as President of the ‘Clean Water’ Foundation, praised the award winner’s commitment as pioneering: ‘Sovannarith Sam is always guided by a threefold perspective. By giving children and young people a roof over their head in the drop-in centres, he is providing life-saving protection. But he doesn’t stop at that. Through education and training, he endeavours to reintegrate the children into society and to give them a future. And lastly, by raising awareness, he wants to prevent children from being deprived of rights and protection.’
Human beings with an inviolable dignity
According to Yves Serra, the commitment of the Cambodian doctor is shaped by his conviction that first and foremost, children are human beings with an inviolable dignity and with fundamental rights. The award of the Prix Caritas 2018 is intended to encourage him to continue his commitment to child protection and children’s rights.
The Prix Caritas is awarded each year to persons who distinguish themselves by their great professional expertise and humanity, as well as their long-term and innovative engagement. The prize money of CHF 10,000 goes to one of the award winner’s projects.