Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive. Click any question to see the answer. If you have any questions that aren't answered here, please feel free to contact us.

  • Is Sunshine Cambodia an orphanage?

    No. Sunshine children have always lived with their families. However, the families who typically seek assistance from Sunshine are chronically poor, living on just a few dollars per day. Most of the parents have low levels of education, if any, and are unskilled, with low, irregular income. There are no welfare benefits and so it is a daily struggle to feed and provide even the most basic care for their children.

    In regard to Cambodian orphanages, only 28% of the children in them have actually lost both parents, which means most so-called "orphans" are taken there by impoverished parents in the belief their children will be better off. In accordance with current best-practice in developed nations, Sunshine favours a community-based approach, believing the children are best cared for by their families and community networks - no matter how poor - rather than being placed in an institutional setting.

    "The majority of children in residential care in Cambodia could be living with their family or extended family, if basic support was available." UNICEF
    "Donors should be encouraged to help spur change by shifting monetary allocations to reintegration and prevention programmes that strengthen traditional community coping mechanisms."UNICEF

    For further reading, please see Myths and Realities About Orphanages in Cambodia (PDF) and With The Best Intentions (PDF).



  • Why don't parents send their children to the local government schools?

    For poor families in Cambodia there are two major costs involved in educating their children:

    1 - The cost of the education itself

    Public education is never "free" but in Cambodia there are extras like exam fees; fees to teachers and even a fee to park your bicycle at school! These "fees" are on top of the usual costs for uniforms, stationery etc. and they exist because education is only partially funded by the government. Parents are required to fill the gap. This makes the system largely inaccessible to poor families.

    2 - The opportunity cost from the loss of income that could be earned by their children

    Families with little or no income are forced to prioritise survival over education. Consequently, children end up on the streets working (even at a young age) instead of being in school. Even if a child is fortunate enough to receive some education, it's likely to be short lived. Older children are forced into the workforce from an early age, in order to support their families. This fact is reflected in Cambodian secondary school retention rates*.

    Sunshine addresses this combination of factors by sponsoring the children's education, whilst at the same time working with the parents to increase the family's earning capacity. This means the children are not obliged to work and that the parents can increasingly, over time, cover their child's education costs themselves and enable them to complete secondary school.

    *In the 2009/10 school year, the primary school completion rate at grade 6 was 86% but the secondary school completion rate at year 9 crashed to 51%.

  • If the children now attend the local school, why do they come to the clubs?

    The school structure in Cambodia is based on half day programmes, in either the morning or afternoon. Many poorly-paid teachers then provide supplementary "tutoring" - for a fee. These extra lessons cover material not taught during public school hours, making attendance compulsory for students who want to pass exams! Sunshine not only pays these informal fees but also offers clubs twice a week where the children benefit from music lessons, computer skills, as well as creative and active opportunities for play and interaction. Khmer kickboxing and soccer training are also popular! A high percentage of the children play in one of Sunshine's boys and girls teams.

  • How does a child register with Sunshine Cambodia?

    Parents who apply are visited at their homes and interviewed to ensure only the neediest children are accepted. Parents must agree to cooperate with Sunshine, and support and encourage their children throughout the education process. Sunshine usually accepts children currently not enrolled in school - either because the family has never been able to afford schooling or because the child has dropped out, due to poverty.

  • If the children were not in the Sunshine program, how would they spend their days?

    They would mostly hang out on the streets, or try to earn a bit of money by begging around the market or tourist areas. Some would trawl through piles of stinking garbage, looking for any recyclable material to sell. Others may sell trinkets, snacks or postcards. Even very young children of poor families will spend their days either on the busy city streets or sitting in a cart full of dirty recyclable materials. It is a dangerous environment for any young child and they are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

  • Are there any particular risk factors for the children of Cambodia's poor?

    Yes. Poor children are vulnerable children. Like street children world-wide they are far more susceptible to malnourishment, disease and drug addiction, all of which can lead to petty crime. As if these consequences are not tragic enough there is also no juvenile justice system in Cambodia so any child convicted of a crime enters the adult prison system.


    Cambodia also has a significant problem with human trafficking. Poor families can be easy prey for traffickers. Their desperate need for money means children are at risk of being sold to pay a debt or to ensure the survival of the rest of the family. The sale of a child may be a deliberate act or parents may be tricked with promises of education or well-paying jobs for their children. After sale, the children find themselves in situations of abuse, often living in slave-like conditions. Girls often end up in a brothel or in domestic slavery.

    Young girls from poor families are also at risk of being sold for their virginity. In Cambodian and other Asian cultures, many men hold the superstitious belief that sex with a virgin will restore youth, cure illnesses such as HIV and harvest a longer life. A virgin may be sold for as much as $5000 (see this 2012 article). For families trying to exist on $2 or $3 a day this represents a significant temptation. Astonishingly, a young girl may even be persuaded to sell herself to get out of crushing debt but more often it is the cultural obligation to support her family. For the girl being sold, the outlook is bleak. She is condemned to a life of prostitution, and along with the great shame attached to her situation, she will likely suffer significant health problems and unwanted pregnancies.

  • How does Sunshine address these risk factors in the lives of the children?

    We seek to be both proactive and preventative.

    Proactively, a good education has the potential to act as a passport out of poverty for Sunshine families. Sunshine children will (for the most part) have future work options other than low paid, dangerous ones. We are excited that soon our very first students will be ready for University! Their work options will be very different from their parents'.

    However, with Sunshine assistance, training and support, parents also have increasing work options available to them as well. Economic empowerment of Sunshine parents is one of the best ways we can address the risk factors in the children's lives.

    On the prevention front, we work to educate Sunshine children AND parents in the areas of abuse and human trafficking. In partnership with Chab Dai we focus on prevention and intervention, so our children will be safe and aware of their human rights.

  • How much does it cost to sponsor a child registered with Sunshine Cambodia?

    $A500 per annum provides education, children's club resources , basic health and dental care, and contributes to a monthly family support subsidy whereby the parents are responsible for providing all meals and incidentals for their children. This gift is tax deductible both in Australia and the U.S.A. For more information go to our Sponsorship page.

  • Can I sponsor a specific child and correspond with that child?

    There are significant costs in administering a sponsorship scheme with photos, individual reports and letter exchange. So rather than paying translators and administrators for this kind of scheme, we prefer to spend the money assisting more children and their families. Our non-specific scheme also avoids unhealthy dependencies and feelings of rejection in children who are without a specific sponsor. A less photogenic child may be left with the sadness of regularly seeing other children receive letters and "treats" and wonder why they have never been selected for sponsorship. Instead, our scheme allows sponsors to partner in the long term development of a whole community of children and to celebrate the joys and successes of many individual children along the way.

  • How will the money I give to Sunshine be spent?

    All donations go directly to providing for the children's needs and paying Cambodian salaries (without the Cambodian staff there would be no one to run the Centre, work with the families or ensure the children's educational and physical needs are being met). All expatriate volunteers are self-supporting or paid by sending agencies.

    Similarly, nearly all administration costs attached to publicising and fund raising for this work in Australia are covered by "Sunshine Friends Inc". Donor dollars are not deflected to support this activity in Australia. You can be confident when you make a donation to this work that it will actually go to the children and make a significant difference in their lives.

    Sunshine adheres to strict financial controls, and records are externally audited every year with audit reports available upon request. For any further information, please contact us directly.

  • You refer to a "hand up policy" when describing your work with Sunshine parents. What does that mean?

    "Hand OUTS" can create a culture of dependence. "Hand UPS" seek to create independence.

    Over the years we've seen our parents grow in their ability to take care of their own children, as Sunshine has given them the tools and training to do that. We've assisted our parents to set goals. We've trained them in parenting skills and money management. We've helped them set up their own savings scheme, provided vocational training and small business loans. Instead of creating a dependent community, we now increasingly have a community which can stand on its own feet. That is what development is all about.

    Sunshine adheres to strict financial controls, and records are externally audited every year with audit reports available upon request. For any further information, please contact us directly.

  • Does Sunshine welcome volunteers and visitors?

    Yes we do. However, our concerns about the dangers and exploitation associated with Cambodia's thriving "orphanage tourism" mean our visitor/volunteer policy (PDF) is conservative and careful. Not all volunteerism is as helpful for the children as it may be for the volunteer! Volunteers who have a specific skill (e.g. an ESL qualification) are particularly welcome, providing they can stay for a minimum 3 month period. We don't take volunteers for shorter periods than this. We also welcome day visitors. Child sponsors and teams from churches and schools who support our work are especially welcome. For more information, please see our visitor and volunteer pages.

  • As a Christian organisation, does that mean only children from Christian families are accepted at Sunshine?

    No. Most of our children come from Buddhist families. Our motivation for assisting the children is our belief that regardless of race or creed, each child is of value and precious in the sight of God. Our faith motivates us to care for those in need and so we see our work as an expression of Christian love in action.


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  • Is Sunshine Cambodia an orphanage?

    No. Sunshine children have always lived with their families. However, the families who typically seek assistance from Sunshine are chronically poor, living on just a few dollars per day. Most of the parents have low levels of education, if any, and are unskilled, with low, irregular income. There are no welfare benefits and so it is a daily struggle to feed and provide even the most basic care for their children.

    In regard to Cambodian orphanages, only 28% of the children in them have actually lost both parents, which means most so-called "orphans" are taken there by impoverished parents in the belief their children will be better off. In accordance with current best-practice in developed nations, Sunshine favours a community-based approach, believing the children are best cared for by their families and community networks - no matter how poor - rather than being placed in an institutional setting.

    "The majority of children in residential care in Cambodia could be living with their family or extended family, if basic support was available." UNICEF
    "Donors should be encouraged to help spur change by shifting monetary allocations to reintegration and prevention programmes that strengthen traditional community coping mechanisms."UNICEF

    For further reading, please see Myths and Realities About Orphanages in Cambodia (PDF) and With The Best Intentions (PDF).



  • Why don't parents send their children to the local government schools?

    For poor families in Cambodia there are two major costs involved in educating their children:

    1 - The cost of the education itself

    Public education is never "free" but in Cambodia there are extras like exam fees; fees to teachers and even a fee to park your bicycle at school! These "fees" are on top of the usual costs for uniforms, stationery etc. and they exist because education is only partially funded by the government. Parents are required to fill the gap. This makes the system largely inaccessible to poor families.

    2 - The opportunity cost from the loss of income that could be earned by their children

    Families with little or no income are forced to prioritise survival over education. Consequently, children end up on the streets working (even at a young age) instead of being in school. Even if a child is fortunate enough to receive some education, it's likely to be short lived. Older children are forced into the workforce from an early age, in order to support their families. This fact is reflected in Cambodian secondary school retention rates*.

    Sunshine addresses this combination of factors by sponsoring the children's education, whilst at the same time working with the parents to increase the family's earning capacity. This means the children are not obliged to work and that the parents can increasingly, over time, cover their child's education costs themselves and enable them to complete secondary school.

    *In the 2009/10 school year, the primary school completion rate at grade 6 was 86% but the secondary school completion rate at year 9 crashed to 51%.

  • If the children now attend the local school, why do they come to the Centre?

    The school structure in Cambodia is based on half day programmes, in either the morning or afternoon. Many poorly-paid teachers then provide supplementary "tutoring" - for a fee. These extra lessons cover material not taught during public school hours, making attendance compulsory for students who want to pass exams! Sunshine not only pays these informal fees but also offers clubs twice a week where the children benefit from music lessons, computer skills, as well as creative and active opportunities for play and interaction. Soccer training is also a big drawcard! A high percentage of the children play in one of Sunshine's teams.

  • How does a child register with Sunshine?

    Parents who apply are visited at their homes and interviewed to ensure only the neediest children are accepted. Parents must agree to cooperate with Sunshine, and support and encourage their children throughout the education process. Sunshine only accepts children currently not enrolled in school - either because the family has never been able to afford schooling or because the child has dropped out, due to poverty.

  • If the children were not in the Sunshine program, how would they spend their days?

    They would mostly hang out on the streets, or try to earn a bit of money by begging around the market or tourist areas. Some would trawl through piles of stinking garbage, looking for any recyclable material to sell. Others may sell trinkets, snacks or postcards. Even very young children of poor families will spend their days either on the busy city streets or sitting in a cart full of dirty recyclable materials. It is a dangerous environment for any young child and they are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

  • Are there any particular risk factors for the children of Cambodia's poor?

    Yes. Poor children are vulnerable children. Like street children world-wide they are far more susceptible to malnourishment, disease and drug addiction, all of which can lead to petty crime. As if these consequences are not tragic enough there is also no juvenile justice system in Cambodia so any child convicted of a crime enters the adult prison system.


    Cambodia also has a significant problem with human trafficking. Poor families can be easy prey for traffickers. Their desperate need for money means children are at risk of being sold to pay a debt or to ensure the survival of the rest of the family. The sale of a child may be a deliberate act or parents may be tricked with promises of education or well-paying jobs for their children. After sale, the children find themselves in situations of abuse, often living in slave-like conditions. Girls often end up in a brothel or in domestic slavery.

    Young girls from poor families are also at risk of being sold for their virginity. In Cambodian and other Asian cultures, many men hold the superstitious belief that sex with a virgin will restore youth, cure illnesses such as HIV and harvest a longer life. A virgin may be sold for as much as $5000 (see this 2012 article). For families trying to exist on $2 or $3 a day this represents a significant temptation. Astonishingly, a young girl may even be persuaded to sell herself to get out of crushing debt but more often it is the cultural obligation to support her family. For the girl being sold, the outlook is bleak. She is condemned to a life of prostitution, and along with the great shame attached to her situation, she will likely suffer significant health problems and unwanted pregnancies.

  • How does Sunshine address these risk factors in the lives of the children?

    We seek to be both proactive and preventative.

    Proactively, a good education has the potential to act as a passport out of poverty for Sunshine families. Sunshine children will (for the most part) have future work options other than low paid, dangerous ones. We are excited that soon our very first students will be ready for University! Their work options will be very different from their parents'.

    However, with Sunshine assistance, training and support, parents also have increasing work options available to them as well. Economic empowerment of Sunshine parents is one of the best ways we can address the risk factors in the children's lives.

    On the prevention front, we work to educate Sunshine children AND parents in the areas of abuse and human trafficking. In partnership with Chab Dai we focus on prevention and intervention, so our children will be safe and aware of their human rights.

  • How much does it cost to sponsor a child at the Sunshine Centre?

    $A500 per annum provides education, children's club resources , basic health and dental care, and contributes to a monthly family support subsidy whereby the parents are responsible for providing all meals and incidentals for their children. This gift is tax deductible both in Australia and the U.S.A. For more information go to our Sponsorship page.

  • Can I sponsor a specific child and correspond with that child?

    There are significant costs in administering a sponsorship scheme with photos, individual reports and letter exchange. So rather than paying translators and administrators for this kind of scheme, we prefer to spend the money assisting more children and their families. Our non-specific scheme also avoids unhealthy dependencies and feelings of rejection in children who are without a specific sponsor. A less photogenic child may be left with the sadness of regularly seeing other children receive letters and "treats" and wonder why they have never been selected for sponsorship. Instead, our scheme allows sponsors to partner in the long term development of a whole community of children and to celebrate the joys and successes of many individual children along the way.

  • How will the money I give to Sunshine be spent?

    All donations go directly to providing for the children's needs and paying Cambodian salaries (without the Cambodian staff there would be no one to run the Centre, work with the families or ensure the children's educational and physical needs are being met). All expatriate volunteers are self-supporting or paid by sending agencies.

    Similarly, nearly all administration costs attached to publicising and fund raising for this work in Australia are covered by "Sunshine Friends Inc". Donor dollars are not deflected to support this activity in Australia. You can be confident when you make a donation to this work that it will actually go to the children and make a significant difference in their lives.

    Sunshine adheres to strict financial controls, and records are externally audited every year with audit reports available upon request. For any further information, please contact us directly.

  • You refer to a "hand up policy" when describing your work with Sunshine parents. What does that mean?

    "Hand OUTS" can create a culture of dependence. "Hand UPS" seek to create independence.

    Over the years we've seen our parents grow in their ability to take care of their own children, as Sunshine has given them the tools and training to do that. We've assisted our parents to set goals. We've trained them in parenting skills and money management. We've helped them set up their own savings scheme, provided vocational training and small business loans. Instead of creating a dependent community, we now increasingly have a community which can stand on its own feet. That is what development is all about.

    Sunshine adheres to strict financial controls, and records are externally audited every year with audit reports available upon request. For any further information, please contact us directly.

  • Does Sunshine welcome volunteers and visitors?

    Yes we do. However, our concerns about the dangers and exploitation associated with Cambodia's thriving "orphanage tourism" mean our visitor/volunteer policy (PDF) is conservative and careful. Not all volunteerism is as helpful for the children as it may be for the volunteer! Volunteers who have a specific skill (e.g. an ESL qualification) are particularly welcome, providing they can stay for a minimum 3 month period. We don't take volunteers for shorter periods than this. We also welcome day visitors. Child sponsors and teams from churches and schools who support our work are especially welcome. For more information, please see our visitor and volunteer pages.

  • As a project of Christian Care for Cambodia, does that mean only children from Christian families are accepted at Sunshine?

    No. Most of our children come from Buddhist families. Our motivation for assisting the children is our belief that regardless of race or creed, each child is of value and precious in the sight of God. Our faith motivates us to care for those in need and so we see our work as an expression of Christian love in action.

    Sunshine Cambodia is a project of Christian Care for Cambodia (in Cambodia) and Global Development Group (in Australia).

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    Global Development Group (ABN 57 102 400 993)

    Sunshine Cambodia is proud to be a partner (Project J529N) with Global Development Group, an Australian DFAT approved NGO, carrying out approved aid and development projects with approved partners to relieve poverty and provide long-term solutions.