Monday, July 5, 2010

Phnom Penh Projects

Our visits with aid organisations are going well – sometimes they are a little too spaced out and weather got in the way of one meeting but we’re trying hard to visit as many different types of organisations as we can. Below are some of the places we’ve had contact with whilst in Phnom Penh. The information is not at all comprehensive; if you want more information please visit their respective websites

New Future for Children is an orphanage on the outskirts of Phnom Penh with around 60 children ranging from 5-20 years old. Our introduction to the place was for a special evening event with dancing, magic and an art show (they sold 2 paintings!) and we visited a second time to get a bit more idea about the organisation. We met an American volunteer who has worked there for 3 years and spent quite a bit of time with him discussing the difficulties faced there and what plans they have for the future. As a result, Brad now has a small bit of computing work to do in his spare time.

A partnership between the Canadian government, Samaritan’s Purse and Hagar is introducing Bio-Sand Filters to rural areas in Cambodia. We met 3 young Canadian interns that were involved in different aspects of this project and they were all very enthusiastic about their 5-month stay in Cambodia. Part of my training with Australian Army Engineers was operating water purification units and I did a bit more research into the BSF technology. Basically it is a concrete tube with sand in it that filters out evil contaminants (I’m not a biologist) through physical (the sand stops the evil bugs) and biological means (there’s bugs in the sand that eat the evil bugs). Each unit costs about $50 and provides enough clean water for a family. It’s a pretty cool idea so we’re trying to organise a meeting with some water experts to learn more about the device and how successfully it can be deployed.

Habitat for Humanity has a branch in Cambodia and an American staff member met with us to brief us on the type of project work they are involved in. They are well-known internationally for their house building projects but some things we learnt whilst visiting is their approach is not to “give” the house away but donate much of the labour in conjunction with a 5 year, interest free loan. This gives the family a sense of ownership and “empowerment” as well as educating them about budgeting and finance. Habitat are also moving into income generation projects such as poultry farming – a project that just so happens to be sponsored by a friend’s church in Adelaide!

We met with a fellow Adelaidean yesterday who has spent 4 years living with his wife (and 2 year old daughter!) in a slum area of Phnom Penh and working with TASK, a local-based NGO supported by TEAR Australia and Servants in Asia. This organisation helps the urban poor in Phnom Penh with a range of services including HIV/AIDS education and support, sanitation projects and health initiatives. Because the Australian family slept, ate and related within the community they were helping, it made them acutely aware of the issues faced the group – it was pretty humbling to hear about some of the issues they’ve faced and the circumstances they were living in.

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