Riverkids works with more than 600 children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Our children come from families struggling to survive, and the children are often neglected and overlooked. Almost none of them have ever received a letter before.
Your words of love and encouragement will mean the world to them. Let them know they are not alone; there is someone out there who cares about them and is willing to mentor them.
We will translate all the letters for you. You can expect to receive at least four letters along with oodles of the child’s excitement, gratitude and love in a year.
Interested in becoming a mentor? Find out more about the details of the program below!
The Riverkids Mentor program is a sponsorship program that matches mentors to Cambodian children from abusive and dysfunctional families in slum communities.
The mentors provide financial assistance through a US$45 monthly contribution that supports both the children and their community. A thriving community provides strong communal support, which helps greatly in rebuilding the lives of these children and their families.
The mentors also provides emotional support by writing letters to the children they are mentoring at least four times a year. Through the letters, the mentors provide hope and kindness to these children, while the children provide mentors with the satisfaction of having made a positive difference to an otherwise abused or neglected child.
Riverkids will match a child to a mentor after reviewing the mentor’s application form and seeking consent of the child’s family in order to maximize the benefits that both mentor and child will get out of the program. The mentor will receive a photograph and a short document about the child.
Mentors are expected to comply with Riverkid’s child protection and media policies. In a nutshell, we ask mentors not to identify the children they are mentoring by publishing both their pictures and names online as they come from vulnerable families. Writing “This is the little boy I write to at Riverkids” is fine.
All letters will be read and translated by Riverkids staff. Riverkids also has Letter Writing Guidelines to help create an appropriate cross-cultural relationship between mentor and child. Mentors can refer to the handy Letter Writing Checklist to ensure each letter is appropriately written before sending out the letter.
Direct contact between mentor and child is strictly forbidden. Gifts from mentor to child are permitted, but all gifting must be done in accordance with our gifting guidelines.
All our guidelines and policies are put in place to ensure that mentor and child are adequately protected. If you have any other question about the mentor program, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you think you are ready to become a Riverkids mentor, take the Donor Pledge and Apply Now!
- I will write to the child chosen for me at least four times this year.
- I will prepare four notes to be sent to the child over this year, in case I am unable to write promptly.
- If at the end of the year, I decide to end my participation, I will write a goodbye letter to the child.
- I will only send stationary to the child, and promise to send no other gifts or financial aid directly to the child.
- I will not make contact with the child or family outside of this letter writing, without first obtaining clearance from Riverkids.
- I will not share personal information, including the letters, about the child outside of my family.
- I will not share photographs of the child with any identifying information.
- I will not discuss politics or sex in my letters.
- I will not use obscenities in my letters.
- I will not try to convert the child to any religion in my letters.
- I will not give the child or family my full name, address or contact details.
- I understand that my letters are to encourage and help the child, and I will write as I would want someone to write to my own family’s children.
- Why can’t I choose a child, or at least say what age or gender I prefer?
We do not list children publically, nor allow donor selection. Research and NGO experience has shown that cute young children get picked first simply because they’re easy. Research on mentorship has shown the most benefit to the child is matching by what the child needs, not the mentor.
Donors will be interviewed and a selection will be made by Riverkids of the child that would benefit most from the advice and support of that donor.
If a donor insists on choosing their own child, that is a clear sign that they aren’t quite ready to participate.
- Won’t this waste money in all the administration needed?
We already produce most of the documentation required for reporting on the children, and through our afterschool classes, have regular access to the children for letter-writing.
The additional work involved – collecting and distributing mail, preparing reports from our internal documentation, and translating – will be done by a full-time Cambodian staff member and would not take up too much time.
We expect costs to be under 5% of the monthly donation in overheads, comparatively very low for the benefit of a steady pool of funding that the children would otherwise not have gotten.
- How old do I need to be to apply?
If you’re under 18, you’ll need to get your parent or legal guardian to sign the mentor forms on your behalf. We recommend that for children under 12, parents closely supervise letters before sending them. If there is an issue with a letter written by a mentor under 18, we would contact your parent or legal guardian first.
For younger mentors, you will very likely be paired with a much younger child, e.g. for a 16 year old girl might be paired with a 2 year old girl. We have a 7 year old boy writing with his family’s help to a 4 year old boy currently. If you are under 18, you will only be paired with a low-risk child and monitored closely.
There is still a huge benefit in having older children writing if there is family support simply because children understand and connect immediately to children, despite the cultural differences. We welcome children and teenagers, if they have the support of their family for mentoring.
- Is this a real mentorship, or will the children be writing only because they need the donations?
Our children’s participation in Riverkids programs will never be tied to these donations.
Riverkids informs and explains to participating children and their families that donations goes directly to Riverkids, and that absolutely no financial aid can be made directly between the donor and child. Participation is completely voluntary.
All donations are pooled and and disbursed by Riverkids to achieve maximum beneficial outcomes for the children, their families and their communities, which removes any monetary incentive for families who sign up for the program.
- Can I take part, even if I can’t afford the US$45 donation?
Unfortunately, no. We’ve designed the Mentor program to help kids emotionally and practically. All of our work comes from donations, so there isn’t much help in encouraging a child if we can’t also feed them, shelter them and send them to school. You might want to look for a sponsor, someone who is too busy to write letters but would still like to help the children in Cambodia.
- What if I have to stop participating?
Life does happen, even with the best of intentions.
We ask that you write a goodbye letter to the child, explaining that you aren’t going to be able to continue writing and that it is nothing to do with the child, and wish them well.
We will then handle the transfer to a new letter writer.