Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The children were waiting as the big green bus pulled up beside a field somewhere in Phnom Penh. In a buzz of expectancy, they grouped themselves in orderly lines as they usually did, whenever the bus made its regular, daily stops at places where street children hung out.
First things first; they were hungry, so in turn they would troop up for sandwiches and hot chocolate or whatever was on the menu for the day. The big green bus was a home on wheels, with a little kitchen, shower booth, first aid section at the rear and up front, seats and floor space with a mounted TV and P.A. system.
To the kids, the bus must have been curiously awesome, a little daunting at first encounter but they soon found out that the young women who staffed the "Mobile Drop in Center" would feed, bathe, patch up their wounds and that they could play games, sing and learn fun stuff. Why, sometimes you could get a haircut, a manicure or pedicure and most of all, the "bus people" really seemed to care and you were free to come and go as you wished. So those in on it would proudly proclaim their privileged sense of belonging to this "moving home and family" to their incredulous friends who just had to come and see for themselves.
It's a tough world for the kids out on the streets of Phnom Penh; violence, child prostitution, syndicates who rope kids in to sell or beg, glue sniffing, gangs who roam about collecting garbage to recycle, steal or anything else to survive .
In the month I spent in Phnom Penh, filming a documentary on street children, I was devastated by what I saw ... but going out to the children on the big green bus of the NGO His Child International, brought me a measure of comfort.