A Week of Service and Learning
There are two primary components to the Cambodia Expedition: Service and Learning. In order to understand the greater purpose of the service, in particular the housebuilding project, it is necessary to first become educated about Cambodian history and culture, root causes of poverty, and sustainable development.
Although there are a number of ways in which forPEACE volunteers participate in service during the Cambodia Expedition, our primary service is house building. Depending on the number of houses for which we have funding, we will spend one to three days installing flooring and wall sidings in 6-12 homes with families in need of special assistance.
Houses are usually an item families save for using the Tabitha savings program. Everyone needs a home, but circumstances such as death, illness, or other difficulties can make that need especially pressing and that dream particularly difficult for some to achieve. Ninety percent of families are able to save and build their own homes; however, in special circumstances families need assistance from outside sources, thus giving us the opportunity to provide the necessary funds and labor for the construction of homes.
Volunteers, Tabitha staff, our friends from CICFO (see below) and local villagers hammer nails into floorboards and install the siding to complete the homes. Once finished, families take advantage of the shade the new homes provide and begin setting up their households immediately. Before departing, we present the new homeowners a housewarming gift in the form of a Tabitha quilt.
One of the attributes that distinguishes forPEACE from other NGOs and service organization is that we have cultivated personal relationships with local individuals and communities.
One of our dearest and long-lasting associations is with CICFO, a children’s home. CICFO is a home where the director Keo Botevy is more than a mere director, but rather a true mother, nurturer and teacher to her 30+ children.
One of the highlights of our experience in Cambodia is being able to serve and build side by side with Botevy and a number of the CICFO children. They thoroughly enjoy serving their own people and becoming fast friends with our volunteers, while we come to understand more about real life and society in Cambodia and learn of their tenacity and industriousness.
For more information please see http://cicfo.org/
Charity Through Job Creation
Many people think that charity begins and ends with financial support in form of a monetary donation. While this is key to improving the standard of living to individuals around the world, sustainable development must go hand in hand with income generation within local communities.
By shopping at local, respectable, fair trade organizations, such as Tabitha’s cottage industry store, we provide the opportunity for dignified work for women who were previously forced into the sex industry.
The next step in the perpetuation of the growth of this business is for the exportation of these quality products. One way to continue your participation is through the purchase and reselling of the Tabitha silk goods in your home environments through bazaars, home sales, county fairs, or making connection with stores in your neighborhoods that would be willing to sell Tabitha products.
For our group’s purposes, the most pressing need is raising the funds for the building materials for the houses we help construct. With each $1500 we raise, we can build one home that will house a family, with the average size of ten people.
We are currently engaged in a campaign to raise the funds necessary for our upcoming House Build. You can participate by making a personal donation as well as sharing our campaign with your friends and family.
Throughout the week we will examine various aspects of the Tabitha “Community Development through Savings” program in conjunction with Nokor Tep, their Women’s Health Initiative, and Cambodia’s recent and ancient history, social enterprises and responsible tourism, as well as other special topics.
Tabitha Savings Program
Often we have the opportunity to visit two to three villages in the provinces surrounding Phnom Penh. Volunteers will be able to see first-hand the power of the micro-savings and Tabitha community development program as they observe and interact with villagers who have just begun the savings program, those who are in the middle, having already reinvested their savings to build income-earning industries, and those who have graduated from the program with houses built and secure financial livelihoods.
Nokor Tep Hospital: Women’s Health Initiative
We will visit the construction site of Nokor Tep: The Women’s Hospital. The hospital is unique in its focus on women’s gynecological and oncological health, and will include an Education and Prevention Unit, a Research Unit, and mobile clinics to reach women from all parts of Cambodia, as well as a built-in “beauty parlor” to eliminate the shame that prevents many rural women from visiting doctors.
The phrase “Nokor Tep” in Sanskrit means “City of Compassion from the Gods” or “City of Angels.” At the entrance an inscription will read: Welcome my sister, my daughter, my mother, my wife—do not be afraid for we (1 Million People) are with you. Come—we welcome you, we will comfort you and treat you. You are not alone—we are with you.
The million references the million small donors that are contributing to the completion and maintenance of the hospital.
Recent Cambodian History
Beginning April 17, 1975, and lasting for a period of four years, approximately 1.7 million Cambodians died as Pol Pot and his army murdered and starved the people of Cambodia in a radical effort to create an agrarian utopia. This brutal and catastrophic regime was followed by years of civil war.
In order to understand Cambodia’s current economic situation, it is imperative to learn about its modern history, particularly the personal and national devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge. Thus, we visit Tuol Sleng, a site of torture and imprisonment used by the Khmer Rouge that now serves as a museum and the Killing Fields, an execution and burial site, serving as a memorial to what the country endured. These tours will offer insight into why a once flourishing nation is now in the slow process of rebuilding.
Ancient Khmer History
In addition to understanding the Cambodia’s recent history, we also have the opportunity to continue our education with a trip to Angkor Wat and other significant temples (i.e. Koh Ker, Preah Vihear, Beng Mealea) from the glory days of the ancient Khmer empire. In so doing we can be humbled by the knowledge that despite their recent economic instabilities, the Khmer are an ingenious, industrious, and artistic people, who, with the right tools will again build a great nation.
Social Enterprises & Responsible Tourism
We take great care to teach our teams how to give business to hotels and restaurants that support ambitious social vision and fair employment for Cambodians. During our twenty year history of offering Service Learning expeditions, we have carefully cultivated a partnership with Cambodian entrepreneurs who have committed themselves to rebuilding their country through generating respectful, dignified employment with solid potential for upward social mobility. An exemplary group of young businessmen created the Frangipani Hotel Group, with hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The chain actively recruits employees from very underprivileged segments of society, makes great effort to facilitate further training and education for its employees and has a laudable and strong charter forbidding sex tourism at any of their establishments. In 2016, forPEACE presented the Frangipani Hotel Group an Award of Excellence.
Responsible tourism, in itself, can be an important contribution to the development of a country. forPEACE aims to teach the team members strategies how to support good social enterprise while traveling in any country.
In order to expand our understanding of Cambodia’s place in the global world, we will also have the opportunity to investigate topics specific to the provinces in which we travel and serve. In the past we have seen and discussed the devastation caused by deforestation, strip mining, dam building, the impact of foreign investment and development policies, and the life of factory workers, among other topics.
Orientation & Travel
We gather at Tabitha Headquarters in downtown Phnom Penh to receive a unique orientation from founder and director Janne Ritskes (and shop from its incredible selection of local cottage industry goods).
Janne provides historical and cultural context through eyewitness stories of her staff giving an unfiltered history from the Cambodian perspective, rather than through the foreign policy angle of Western nations. Janne also teaches etiquette and how to behave in the villages: how to show respect by properly greeting villagers, wearing modest clothing, and obeying cultural norms about physical touch and pointing.