When reflecting on my visit to the Chulkiri Community in Cambodia the photo above always comes to mind. I remember feeling nervous as we drove further away from Phnom Penh and the rice fields began to spread out before us. Arriving in the first village these girls weren’t afraid to express their nervousness through laughter; and laughing with them, some of my own nerves began to fall away.
Chulkiri in the Khmer language translates to a place where there is a mountain covered by water. Flooding is frequent and aggressive in these areas meaning that many houses have to be built on stilts to survive the rainfall. We met one family who with the help of World Vision were in the process of building their second home. Initially providing the family with a few goats, the family was able to breed and sell the goats earning enough money to build a new home on top of their original home which was falling into disrepair.
It was heart-warming to see how involved the community members were in the daily developmental activities taking place in the Children’s clubs and Agricultural Corporative. Many teenagers as part of the Youth Group assist at the children’s clubs teaching English as well as traditional dance lessons, giving the younger children a safe place to play and learn. With 70% of Cambodians being under the age of 30 the community workers want to focus on empowering the youth through education and leadership opportunities.
Passing by this household on our way to the World Vision office I asked the mother what she hoped for her children who are sponsored by Australian supporters. She told me that she is hopeful that they will now have the opportunity to become teachers or work for a Non-Government Organisation.
I felt grateful to be able to spend the day with the community workers witnessing the rapport they have built with the community members. Their passion for their work is evident in the way they communicate with children and adults alike listening to their suggestions and striving to find ways to implement them.
My journey came to an end all too quickly but I will forever cherish how a ‘barang’ (as they call Westerners) was warmly welcomed by everyone in the Chulkiri community. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to visit Cambodia and admire the resilience of its citizens.