In the developing world, parents often work long hours to be able to financially support their families. This means leaving children without supervision for large parts of the day. Additionally, children are often in charge of caring for their younger siblings. This can leave children vulnerable and feeling scared.
In Peru, an average of 22 children go missing every month in Cusco alone. And while we may be used to safety being taught in schools in our societies, that's not always the case in developing countries. This can be from a lack of resources or poor planning. For example, within the education department in Cusco there is only one staff member in charge of safety; For around 67,279 children! And, their main role is teaching children about natural disasters. Furthermore, any focus on child abuse is more reactionary than preventative.
Cambodia faces similar problems with very high levels of abuse towards children. Additionally, Cambodia has also become a destination for 'sex-tourism' and attracts some untoward visitors. Many families try to take advantage of the opportunity to make money from tourists by pulling on their heart strings by having their children out trying to sell various merchandise around tourist attractions. If you have visited Siem Reap you would have no doubt noticed they many young, unsupervised children around the temples selling souvenirs. We can all agree how vulnerable this leaves those children, at the mercy of strangers.
Is this our responsibility?
In a perfect world, we would love to be able to eliminate all dangerous situations that leave children vulnerable. It would be great if children always had trusted adult supervision or a safe place to go. But cultural norms and living circumstances in developing countries are a barrier to this. Leaving children in the alone of in the care of slightly older children is just the 'way it's done'.
Our after-school projects, Picaflor House & Helping Hands, give vulnerable children a safe place to go afterschool while their parents are at work. Unfortunately, there are still times when they are alone and unsupervised in vulnerable positions.
If we can't change the culture around child supervision and we can't can't ensure that these children are always in a safe place, what can we do? How far does our responsibility go? Do we simply accept that these children face possible danger? Of course not!