FREE THE BEARS WILDLIFE CENTER, CAMBODIA

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Alliance Member: Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel has partnered with Friends International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to support a trip for to the Wildlife Rescue Center, Free the Bears Sanctuary. Young people from vulnerable backgrounds don’t usually have the opportunity to visit Wildlife centers. So this trip gives young people a chance for learn about their country’s wildlife animals and understand they habitat. 

On Friday, 26th May 2017, Mith Samlanh organized a second trip for a second group of 20 (6 female) children and youth to the Wildlife Center Free the Bears educational program, accompanied by 2 Mith Samlanh staff. The trip is part of a series of visits which will take place over the course of this year with the support from Responsible Travel. The children and youth were age between 10-24 years old who participate in Mith Samlanh’s programs. The majority of them are currently studying at Mith Samlanh’s educational center and vocational training. 

Journal: 

8am - Breakfast at Mith Samlanh: Before heading to the Wildlife Center all the youth and children had breakfast at Mith Samlanh’ Center. At 8:30am the young people were picked up at Mith Samlanh by our travel agency partner Exo Travel and arrived at the Center at around 10:00AM. The journey to the Center was very fun and full of happy moments and excitement. They sang different songs, made jokes and engaged with each other. 

At the Center the group was welcomed by Free the Bears staff which gave an introduction about the Center, the work they do, and the animals they serve. You could see the excitement in the young people's eyes. They were very interested in the mission of the Center and had a lot of questions to ask. For many of these young people this was the first time they saw wild animals and it was obviously a very interesting experience for them. 

11:00 - 12:00 AM – Guided Tour around the Wildlife Center: For one hour, the children and youth were given a tour around the center, where they had the chance to see different species of bears (Sun Bears and Moon Bears). 

1pm- 3pm. Play time: After lunch which lasted almost one hour, it was time for play. The staff from Free the Bears organized a few games for the children and youth about animals and environmental conservation. The young people got some presents for being active and engaging in the games (such as pens, reading books, pencils, notebooks.) 

Later on, they invited the young people to help the bear care team in preparing food and treats for the bears such as bamboo logs, grass baskets and Aussie dog balls, and helped feed the bears. They were extremely impressed with the bear’s ability to get the food from the balls and with their intelligence. 

After spending more than an hour exploring and listening about wildlife conservation, everyone got back on the bus and returned to MS. 

Impact: A great and fun day out for all the children and youth. Not many times they have the opportunity to visit a conservation site like the one in Tamao Mountain. Only tourists and wealthy Cambodians have the opportunity to visit. For many of them it was the first ever trip outside Phnom Penh. They were all very happy and entertained. Learning about animals first hand is a unforgettable experience. 

Quotes from the day:

“I was really impressed with the children and youth who visited us today. They were all very interested in the work we do. They asked so many questions about the animals and our work.” - Wildlife center staff 

"I feel very happy to see so many different animals. I’ve never seen a bear before, they are so beautiful and intelligent." 

“It was the first time for me to see a bear and other wild animals.” 

“The trip was very fun. I liked that we had the chance to get out of Phnom Penh.” 

“We had a nice lunch and also played games, which was very fun.”

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 South East 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 marginalized children, youth, and their caregivers. It does this through a holistic range of inclusive programming that impacts about 15,000 beneficiaries each year. 

For more success stories from Responsible Travel, visit http://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/trip-for-a-trip