We work closely with the local people who manage these projects, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs:
• Registered doctors, dentists and nurse practitioners
• Occupational therapists, speech therapists and physiotherapists
• Alternative therapists – for example reflexologists, reiki practitioners
• Art therapists
• Health care professionals able to help organise and deliver basic health and hygiene programmes
• People able to organise training in drug and alcohol abuse
There are a number of health care initiatives working with people in and around Siem Reap, and you will be placed on a project according to your particular skills and experience.
Many health care programmes are based around community centres in rural villages on the outskirts of Siem Reap, and our partners work with two of these centres. Both employ mainly local staff who are keen to help their own communities to break the cycle of poverty and lack of education that runs across much of rural Cambodia. The centres are focused on meeting the needs of families who live on or just above the poverty line, many of them subsistence farmers. In many of the villages there is no piped water supply, with all the water coming from community wells. Water has to be boiled or run through filters before it is safe to drink but 30% of families don’t have water filters. Many villages have no sewage system – those families lucky enough to have a toilet have a simple collecting tank next to their toilet that has to be emptied out. In these circumstances basic health care practices that we would take for granted, such as washing hands after using the toilet, are often lacking. In addition, many families have never been taught good hygiene practices. Most children in Cambodia now attend school but this was not the case for their parents’ generation, largely due to Cambodia’s troubled political history. The community centres where volunteers could work provide holistic support to these communities, including education programmes and vocational training for children and adults. A key part of this is health, first aid and nutrition training for children who attend classes at the centres and for the families in the local communities. They would welcome support in developing health and nutrition programmes, preparing resources and planning and helping to deliver workshops.
One of these community centres has a small section providing respite and transitional care for children with physical disabilities, as well as an educational and therapies-based day centre for children with special needs. They would welcome support from physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists to help provide specialist training in these areas.
Due to poverty, in the past many families have moved into Siem Reap in the hope of finding more job opportunities and ways of making a living in the town, especially as so many tourists come there. Many families have ended up living on the streets, begging for money and food in order to survive. Our partners in Cambodia support one project working with families who are looking for alternatives to this way of living. The project began by working with street children and is now expanding to work with their families, helping them to stay together and to improve their standard of living through long-term health, education and training initiatives. As in the rural community centres, they would welcome volunteer support in organising and running social and health workshops, or courses in art or other therapies. In addition, this project is developing a centre offering alternative therapies such as reiki and reflexology. Volunteer practitioners offer individual treatments to those who can afford to pay, with the money going towards the costs of running the project. However more importantly they also provide teaching and training to members of the families supported by this project and to others in the local community, either enhancing existing skills or introducing them to a new skill which could provide them with the means to earn a living. If you have expertise in any form of alternative therapy which you could teach to local people as well as offering treatments to paying customers, this project could use your skills.
Another health care project supported by our partners in Cambodia is the Lake Clinic. The doctors who work for this project care for the health of people living around or on the Tonle Sap Lake, far from dry land during the rainy season and remote from any form of health care. They have two boats which go out to floating clinics on the lake for three days every week, camping out overnight, with each boat carrying a team of doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives to these remote areas. The Lake Clinic sometimes welcomes appropriately qualified medical and dental volunteers to join their team (nurses and midwives are provided locally) and this may be of interest to appropriately skilled people prepared for a very remote volunteering experience.
It should be noted that, for certain types of medical volunteering, permission to practise is needed on a case by case basis from the Provincial Department of Health. This can impact both on the volunteer opportunities, and the time it takes to confirm a placement.
Helping to improve health care by working alongside local people keen to develop their own skills and to help their communities is a really important way of enabling the people of Cambodia to break the cycle of poverty and take control of their own futures. If you have any of the skills listed at the top of this page, you can make a useful contribution here.
Cambodia’s bloody history has had a massive effect on the country’s infrastructure, as well as on its citizens in very specific and personal ways. During the Khmer Rouge rule Cambodia experienced a traumatic and unforgettable genocide that changed the country forever. Approximately 1.7 million people were killed in a little less the four years.
Thirty years later, Cambodia still struggles to provide basic education and healthcare for its people. Literacy is a significant issue, with the majority of Cambodia’s illiterate population living below the poverty line, in remote and rural areas. Without improving the access to and quality of affordable education and healthcare, there is very little hope of Cambodia pulling itself out of poverty. The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation is still a major health risk in the majority of rural villages.
More than one third of Cambodians live below the poverty line, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Economic poverty is especially pervasive in rural areas and among children, who constitute more than half the country’s population.
According to UNICEF, Cambodia has the highest infant and under-five mortality rates in the region, at 97 and 141 per 1,000 live births respectively. Vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoea and respiratory infections are among the leading causes of childhood death. Maternal mortality is also high.
Cambodia’s main income generating industries are textiles and tourism. The long-term development of the economy after decades of war remains a daunting challenge, as the population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure. More than 60% of the population still gets by on subsistence farming.