Free The Bears Wildlife Center in Phnom Tmao, Cambodia - travel journal

Children sitting on tiger statue
Responsible Travel has partnered with Friends International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to support a trip to the Wildlife Rescue Center, Free the Bears Sanctuary. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds donít usually have the opportunity to visit wildlife centres, so this trip gave young people a chance to learn about their countryís wildlife and understand their habitat.

Free the Bears is a non-profit rescue centre that focuses on the protection and rehabilitation of Moon bears (Ursus thibetanus), Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) across Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. To protect the species the centre employs a wide range of strategies that include improving environmental education, providing sustainable livelihoods, helping to increase law enforcement and researching the protection of wild bear populations.

Date: Friday, 28th July 2017: This was the fourth trip that Mith Samlanh organised for a group of 20 (8 female) children and youth to the Wildlife Center Free the Bears educational program. The children and youth were aged between 12-24 years old and participate in Mith Samlanhís programs. The majority of them attend vocational training courses and remedial education at Mith Samlanh center.


8am - Breakfast at Mith Samlanh: Before heading to the Wildlife Center all the youth and children had breakfast at Mith Samlanh. At 8:20am the children were picked up at Mith Samlanh and headed to Wildlife Center.

10:15am - 12pm: The group were welcomed by Free the Bears staff and soon after they were taken to see the animals in the Wildlife Center. Besides the famous Sun and Moon Bears, the children had the chance to see other animals including: monkeys, crocodiles, heron, marabou, large deer, elephants, lions, tigers, and wild buffalo, among other animals. It was the first time that many of these children had seen these animals, so they really enjoyed it and were amazed.

12:00pm - 12:40pm: The students and the teachers had lunch together, which they brought with them from the Mith Samlanh canteen.

12:40pm- 2:30pm: After lunch, the tour continued. Other animals and parts of the Center were explored. The children were guided around the center and enjoyed every single moment. At 3PM they returned to MS.

Tour group
Guide given a talk about the bears
Impact: None of these children and youth have ever been to the Wildlife Center before and never had the opportunity to see wild animals. All of them were very happy to be there and see the animals. Many youth were interested in knowing more about the history of the animals, what food they eat, how the center takes care of the animals, how they reproduce and how long they live. The younger children were very surprised to see the bigger animals.

Quotes from the children and social workers:
"I saw a lot of animals which Iíve never seen before. Iím very happy today".

"This was amazing. When can we come again?"

"The elephants were very big. Iíve never seen any in my life."

"I feel very happy for these children. Since Iíve been working with these children and youth they never had the chance to visit any wildlife sanctuary, so this is really important for them." Ė Social worker.
About our partner organisation: Friends International is an award-winning social enterprise founded in 1994 that saves lives and builds futures of the most marginalized children, youth, families and communities in Southeast Asia and around the world. It works to create a future where all children are safe from all forms of abuse, and become functional, productive citizens who contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world. Friends works in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand, and with 45 partners around the world, to provide comprehensive services to marginalized urban children, youth and their families. Since its inception, Friends has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable reintegration of more than 300,000 vulnerable children, youth and their families.

Mith Samlanh was established in 1994 as Friends first program based in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Since its inception, the program has supported the education, well-being, and sustainable social reintegration of more than 200,000 marginalised children, youth, and their caregivers. It does this through a holistic range of inclusive programming that impacts about 15,000 beneficiaries each year.

Happy faces
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