End of an inspiring visit

11 Nov 2016   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development   |   Cambodia   |   Asia

Tags:  Cambodia, development   |   No comments

Paul O’Callaghan meeting with program participants and staff in Cambodia

Caritas Australia CEO Paul O'Callaghan is coming to the end of his first visit to Caritas programs in Cambodia. He has shared his experience with us.

I am coming to the end of my first visit to Caritas programs in Cambodia and it has been a truly inspiring experience. We have had a presence in Cambodia for over 30 years and I was struck by the high regard in which our Caritas network is held at all levels in Cambodian society.

I was fortunate to meet with our partner agencies and communities in rural areas and in the capital city.  These partners all work with the most marginalised communities and face challenges which are beyond most of our imagination in Australia. The enduring impacts of the Pol Pot regime genocide are still evident despite the country's emerging economic opportunities.

The most humbling experience of all is meeting people in each of our programs who, despite extreme poverty, are not only taking charge of their future, but who also exude dignity, humour and initiative. Many have told me that our support for their community change process was the turning point in their lives and that they had never previously felt a sense of hope. 

A particular challenge to Cambodia is the exodus of most rural women and men for work to neighbouring Thailand or other counties. While the remittances they send back are valued, there is considerable dislocation to normal community life, with grandparents now playing a larger role in raising small children.

Cambodia is experiencing rapid economic change, driven by the garment and construction industries. At the same time, poverty levels, especially in the rural areas, remain high. As an indicator, 80% of the population do not have access to piped water and 58% don't have access to adequate sanitation.

I feel privileged to be reminded in these community meetings that those in abject poverty have capacity, initiative and exceptional resilience. Given very modest support through our program activities, they demonstrate the best qualities of the human spirit. In this country, this always comes with plenty of smiling and laughing. 

- Paul O'Callaghan

Read Part One of Paul's trip to Cambodia

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