Friends-International works with marginalized urban children and youth, their families and communities to help them become functional, productive citizens.
To achieve this, they build best-practice services for marginalized children and youth to save lives and build futures (Friends Programs), which are supported by strong business models (Friends Social Businesses). They work in partnership with other organizations through the CYTI Alliance, and also run a child protection network called ChildSafe.
Friends-International started working with street children in 1994. Since then they have expanded their services to support other groups of urban marginalized children and youth between 0 and 24 years of age. These are children who may be living and working on the streets, using drugs, or affected by HIV; they may be migrants, in prison or in conflict with the law, or victims of abuse. Some may be involved in the sex trade, or might have dropped out of school.
Friends-International runs and supports projects in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Honduras, Mexico, Egypt, and Myanmar.
Keeping children safe from exploitation and life on the streets requires concerted efforts of prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration.
Friends-International involves local entrepreneurs in keeping children safe, and offers rehabilitation and reintegration programs.
Sebastien Marot seeks to move away from charity and toward real development.
Friends-International serves 50,000 children each year.
Young people living on the street or at risk for that life grow up to become productive and fulfilled members of society.
Partnerships, Social Business Franchise, Policy Advocacy
Services are delivered by Friends partner organizations who also work actively to promote adoption of best practices and supporting policies. The vocational training restaurant model is being replicated through a franchise model.
Friends’ social businesses generate about a third of its revenues; funding from international agencies (UNICEF and others) and philanthropy accounts for about two-thirds.
Sébastien Marot served in Asia with the French diplomatic corps. Returning as a traveler to Cambodia, he encountered a wrecked society where children slept in the streets. He gave them meals but soon realized that giving to child beggars merely kept them living on the streets. He started Mith Samianh (“Friends” in Khmer) to offer shelter, medical care and education, reintegrating children with family, school and work. As the organization’s success attracted attention, Sébastien was attacked and targeted for assassination by gangs and pedophiles. Yet requests for help and training continued to pour in, and Sébastien transferred leadership of Friends Cambodia to an able Cambodian colleague. He now devotes his energy to Friends-International through two key programs: ChildSafe, which involves local leaders and tourists in prevention, and The Street Children Network, which makes effective services available -- vocational training, protection, and social services, as well as job placement in the Friends Social Businesses network. Services are delivered through Friends programs, an alliance of partners, and the ChildSafe global community protection network. At the time of the Award, Friends-International was active in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, and Honduras, and had reached more than half a million children in those countries, providing some 12,000 with ongoing assistance.