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Settling into Cambodia

After a long break, and a brief sojourn into the world of greenhouse sales, I feel I am finally back where I belong, working for Concern.

Back in June, I packed my bags for a two year stint as Programme Support Officer in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, is a really thriving city and it was not at all difficult to settle in.

This really is a wonderful country full of wonderful people. It’s easy to see why it has become so popular with the backpacker crowd.

Off the beaten track

Venture just a little off the usual tourist trail, into rural Cambodia and you find an altogether different world. About 35% of the population live below the poverty line and more than 90% of these live in rural areas. They largely depend on small plots of land and common forests and fisheries for their livelihoods. Chronic malnutrition continues to be a problem with 37.2% of children under five chronically malnourished.

Since 1979

Concern began working in Cambodia in 1991 but had been working with Cambodian refugees in the Thai border camps since 1979. Much has changed over the years. We are now working with 17 partner organisations in 476 villages in four provinces. Our work is mostly focused around improving farming techniques, rehabilitation of irrigation systems and giving small business grants.

Small business grants in action

Mrs Long Sokhom is a widow with four children. She was only able to make €5.50 per month (18 cent a day!) while spending over €10 a month to support her family. This was putting her deeper and deeper into debt. In August 2008, she received a grant of just over €67 to build a chicken house, buy some chickens and expand her vegetable plot.

Currently, Mrs Sokhom is producing chickens and growing vegetables and earning about €35 per month. Able to pay off her debts, her family no longer faces food shortages and her children are back in school.

We are currently assisting over 34,000 families, just like Mrs Sokhom’s, to make that first step out of poverty.