There are at least 3,000 NGO’s in Cambodia, though this amount is likely to be much higher. These organisations, tackling issues such as illiteracy, human trafficking and the environment, are both foreign and locally run, some effective, some not.
It is very difficult for a grassroots organisation to stand out in this crowd, particularly when at Human and Hope Association we do not accept foreign volunteers, instead focusing on Khmer volunteers. With that, we do forgo funding opportunities. Additionally, we do not allow the few visitors we have to take photos. We believe that our community members have the right to a safe learning environment, and for that reason, we refuse to make them a tourist attraction.
I am not going to sit here and write that we are a perfect NGO, I doubt that such a thing exists, but I am going to say that I pride myself on the fact that apart from myself, we only employ locals, and in 2016 when I have capacity-built myself out of a job, we will be entirely run my locals. We also focus on the outcomes of our projects, not just the outputs, as for our programs to be truly effective, we must be committed to the end result, moving our community out of poverty. We are also accountable; if we make mistakes our team no longer worries about ‘losing face’, as is the Asian culture, instead they admit to their mistakes, work out how to fix them, and move on.
Why, you may be wondering, does Human and Hope Association need to exist, when there are over 3,000 more NGO’s around the country?
Well, we are a grassroots NGO, meaning we target two communes only. This allows us to have a more personalised approach, and focus on the individual needs of our villagers; we don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We, unlike many other NGO’s, also don’t give our direct aid; it is not sustainable, it is disempowering, and it shifts the responsibility of the villagers to fund their living costs onto us. Instead, we engage our community using empowering and sustainable programs to address the core issues we have identified they face.
It is estimated 1/5 children in Cambodia are sexually abused by the time they are 18. Our ‘Good Touch, Bad Touch’ workshops for the students in our education programs provide them with knowledge about sexual abuse and empower them to stand up for their rights. In addition to this, we hold child protection workshops for our sewing students, adults in our community programs and teachers at our local primary school to prevent violence against children.
Around 20% of Cambodians live below the poverty line. By providing a one-year sewing course and a six-month family farm program, we are able to provide villagers with the skills necessary to move themselves out of poverty. Our family farm program is sustainable as our students pay back the cost of the resources over one year, interest free.
Over 10,000 Cambodian children die each year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Our hygiene workshops for both children and adults teach safe practices, in addition to providing clean drinking water and sanitation facilities at our centre for our students.
At least 22% of women in Cambodia have been victims of domestic violence. Our domestic violence workshops aim to make women aware of their rights so they can be empowered to stand up to their husbands, and also intend for men to understand the different actions which constitute domestic violence, and that this is not acceptable.
Approximately 60% of women are unable to read or write, and nearly half the nations’ children drop out of school in grade three. Our Preschool classes, aside from instilling good behaviour and hygiene in our students, teach them Khmer so they are literate before they even begin primary school. Our Khmer classes for children teach them the alphabet, sentences and, working with their parents, we ensure they are enrolled in public school once the new term opens. Our Khmer classes for the adult women in our community programs show them that it is never too late to learn, and attempt to reduce these statistics.
During the Khmer Rouge era, 90% of artists were killed. This has left a country that struggles with creativity and individual thinking, especially when public school consists of rote learning. Our art class and movie club fosters our students creativity and encourages discussion, increasing their confidence both in class and outside.
Only around 5% of tertiary aged students are in tertiary education. We provide university scholarships and further education scholarships to our staff members who all come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are able to increase their skills and knowledge so they can contribute to and build our community effectively.
We believe in supporting local businesses, which is why we don’t provide programs to people who could afford to pay for them. We strive to move our community members out of poverty and we DO have an exit plan. We believe that if we are doing our jobs properly, there won’t be a need for us to exist where we are in 15 years, which is when our current preschool students will be graduating from high school.
To have an impact on hundreds of community members each month, it costs us $3,363USD. Of course, this is the maximum cost, it usually works out to be less. We also aren’t 100% reliant on donors, as we have some self-sustainable projects and we also generate some of our own income through a sewing business, farm and other methods.
It costs $640USD to run our community programs each month. That includes university scholarships, microfinance loans, family farm, support of a rural project and vital workshops for hundreds of villagers.
It costs $518USD to run our education programs each month. That includes English, Living Values, Khmer, Preschool, Art, Movie Club and Library for more than 150 children.
It costs $990USD to run our vocational training programs each month. This includes providing 11 ladies with sewing training, Khmer language classes, sewing machine loans, running a sewing business and researching new vocational training opportunities.
It costs $1,215USD to fund our ongoing needs each month. That includes land rental, electricity, phone, petrol and motorbike maintenance, internet, staff lunches, salaries for our Director, Operations Manager, security guards, sustainability assistant, petrol allowances, staff health costs and running our farm.
You can support our organisation by becoming a monthly donor ($25 a month makes a BIG difference and is tax deductible in Australia and America), purchasing our handicrafts in our online store, holding a fundraiser or market stall for us (we hold fundraising licenses in several states in Australia) or becoming a corporate sponsor.
By supporting our grassroots NGO, you are saying YES to empowering, sustainable, effective solutions to poverty in our community.
And remember, it isn’t a lifelong commitment.