A brief history

In 2007, three members of our project were part of the team that facilitated the very first research in Cambodia to focus on the issue of the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys. The original study was commissioned by NGO Hagar International and funded by World Vision Canada. A research team from local NGO Social Services of Cambodia (SSC) carried it out. The result was “I thought it could never happen to boys’’ which was published in 2008.

Following further research, The Chab Dai Coalition, in partnership with SSC, local NGO M’lop Tapang (Based in Sihanouk Ville), The British Embassy in Phnom Penh and donors Love 146, Ecopac (Australia), For the Silent and Equitas (US), developed and piloted a specialist training curriculum for carers, social workers and other practitioners working with boys and young men.

We listened to boys and those working to support them and in response to their needs developed the First Step project, which was launched in April 2010.  We are grateful for the ongoing support of the organisations and donors mentioned as well as many others who have now joined our global partnership to work for positive change. Details of all our supporters and donors can be accessed on the ‘Support Us’ page on this site.

Whilst First Step is a project working to support boys and young men, we do not wish to imply therefore, that services for girls and women are adequate or that the issue of the sexual abuse of women and girls is solved – for all over the world that is clearly not the case.

However, we know that there are very few existing services that care for males and that their needs are mostly unrecognised and unmet. We hope that one day all services can care equally for boys and girls, men and women. To that effect, if there are situations where any child or young person, or adult male or female, is at risk of sexual abuse or in need of support, our staff will not discriminate and do our best to provide help and find safe, sensitive and appropriate care and services.

The First Step name and logo:

The name First Step was chosen for a number of reasons – not least because where sexual abuse is concerned – the ‘first step’ (whether that be asking for help, disclosing abuse or picking up the phone to talk to someone) is often the hardest one to take - but one that can then lead to any number of hopeful possibilities. It is also often said that any significant journey starts with a first step - and we can perhaps view the journey to recovery in a similar way. Taking any step, however small is about taking action and achieving change – and that is exactly what this project is all about.

The logo, originally designed by UK based graphic designer Chris Jennings and subsequently modified by Yaim Chamreun (the First Step project Coordinator) depicts a positive male character seemingly celebrating – perhaps he has scored a goal in a game of football? Possibly he’s celebrating reaching another more important goal in life? It is designed to evoke feelings of success, achievement, celebration, strength and joy. We know these are the kind of emotions that many survivors of abuse may feel when they are safe, free of abuse and supported by others, who understand, value them and help them achieve their potential.

Some of you may recognise the style of the logo and think it is familiar in some way? It is based on the original work of the late American graffiti artist and social activist Keith Haring and we created an original character in a style similar to that which he made so famous.

First Step name and logo

The Khmer version of the First Step logo alongside one of
Keith Haring’s classic and endearing images.


Keith was often quoted as saying that he liked it when people copied his style, as it made his art more accessible and helped it come alive. We suspect that he would have been very pleased to have been associated with First Step.


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