World Vision Cambodia

This post will be related to my work, non governmental organizations, and serving those in need. If you want to keep reading, please come sit and have some tea. 🙂

At the computer~

So I’ve been working for World Vision for the past couple of years and it has been an amazing journey. Working for one the largest relief and development organizations in the world has been extremely educational and taken my abilities to the next level. Throughout my career here, I have met some fascinating individuals and have embraced fully how World Vision approaches helping those in need.

In my experiences working in international development, I have learned that things can become very complicated. You have your massive corporations whose annual revenue surpasses more than most countries annual GDP’s. There’s a LOT of power and influence that comes to serve economic interests and growth. And at most times, this comes at the cost to those in the most need, the “poor.” Then there’s large NGO’s like Oxfam, Red Cross, World Vision, Mercy Corps, Save the Children. The mid level organizations and the “Mom and Pop” non profits, usually serving a small community. Let’s not forget the other organizations utilizing volunteers, missionaries, there are churches and there are governments too. Lots of players in the game so to speak.

Sometimes, the “people” who need to be assisted, get overwhelmed by the saturation of agencies and “help” that is brought in. Most NGO’s wants the same result. We want to see people in need get the assistance they require so that we can reduce child mortality, help people get better nutrition, proper medical care and availability and provide opportunities for growth through education, skills building and micro loans. It’s all good, but with all the various interests in the soup, are people really being helped?

What am I saying? I’m saying that, yes, there is a TON of need out there and people whose lives are meager. That’s not to say that people aren’t eating, (at least not in Cambodia), but no one is moving up. I’m saying that, “development” is complicated and isn’t the easiest process. As an anthropologist, traveler and NGO employee, I fully understand this and I know about the failures in the past, and this is what has partially inspired my journey to Asia, because, I HAVE to know that my organization, World Vision, is providing for the needs of the people. I know WV is helping immensely and has for many years. It’s my job to know about our many projects, initiatives and history. I have heard the testimonies of people who visited our work. And trust me, there are a good many success stories. But I need to know firsthand from the locals how World Vision has helped. I know in my heart people are being helped, but call me Thomas, I need to see it, I need to hear it from my brothers and sisters. My brothers and sisters in Cambodia. 🙂 For me, it would double my passion in my work for World Vision.

So I excitedly went to World Vision Cambodia today. One of our largest offices in the Southeast Asian region, our organization has been here since 1970. We assisted during the Khmer Rouge, the wars, helped in agriculture, malnutrition and primary health care and currently have 1,500 employees in the country. It was a good place to choose to explore because of our history here.

World Vision Cambodia National Office

As I entered the premises, I saw the many World Vision vehicles parked outside. 4×4’s and trucks, it was quickly realized, this isn’t a support office. 🙂

Care for a ride?

I was warmly welcomed to my appointment (more like a cool welcome since it’s already pretty warm outside ) 🙂 and was introduced to the offices visitor representative. We had a good conversation, dropping names to each other about who we both knew in the US office, talked about the work here in the nation and what my particular objectives were while in country. Then I was able to meet the National Director of World Vision Cambodia and had a very good chat with her. After my visit, I was given the opportunities to visit our projects in the “field.”

World Vision Cambodia has 38 field projects and also projects in the cities assisting those who are victims of trafficking or street children. After my visit to the office, I walked into the adjoining office of Vision Fund Cambodia, a micro finance institution birthed from World Vision. Vision fund Global currently serves over 650,000 individuals with small loans and the portfolio extends over $350,000,000. You ask what the interest rate is? Well, in Cambodia it’s 1.7-2.5 % depending on the loan. Not bad. Not bad at all.

At the Vision Fund Office. Maybe I'll get a loan for that mango farm I've been dreaming of starting...

I had a fruitful and informational talk with the banking manager and really learned that Vision Fund Cambodia is one huge success story. The mission of VF is to “provide financial services to help the poor liberate themselves from poverty.” Boy, do they do that. Some statistics to show you:

*The loan portfolio has grown from $3,445,767 in 2005 to $30,017,044 in 2010.

*The clients have grown from 25,347 in 2005 to 108,047 in 2010.

*88% are women borrowers

*Average loan size: $324

*Payback rate: %99.5

It’s working people.

I asked the banker, who’s in charge of the money in the family. He said, “the woman is.” Oh really? “Yes, if husband gets paycheck, he gives straight to wife.” The girls in the bank started to smile, I said “So is this really a good idea?” The room burst into laughter. Haha, good times.

But really, having the woman of the household is smart because, let’s face it guys, they can be just a bit more responsible at times. If a guy, who is a member of a patriarchal community, cannot provide for his family as much as he wants and has no chance to move up, because he has tried tirelessly and so did his Father, he may just resort to drinking some hard stuff and smoking tobacco. When really, the little money the family has should be saved and used for better purposes. I can’t blame the man, he’s poor, and wants an escape outside of his life. My point is, give the money to the woman, she’s more likely to utilize it better, so that her children are fed, possibly given an education (which is moving up) and combining this cash with her micro loan to make more money to provide for the family. In Cambodia, this is working VERY well.

So, after having yet another encouraging conversation, I hopped on the back of a motorcycle, which are the common form of taxi here to get back to my guesthouse. Picture me reading reports on the back while the moto is zig zagging in between cars and other bikes. No big deal, this is CAMBODIA mate!

World Vision Scooter anyone?

As I came back to my guesthouse, I was welcomed by some of the Tuk Tuk and moto drivers, who I’ve befriended the past few days. One of the drivers took me to World Vision just a few hours before. “So, did you have good time in World Vision?” Yes, yes it was good I told him. “World Vision VERY GOOD, Very Good!” As he was giving me a moving thumbs up and looking me in the eye, both serious and thankful in glance. “Yes, thank you” I said. “No, World Vision Very GOOD! They help Cambodian! I know! I have been here, World Vision Very GOOD!”

That was all I needed to hear.

Tuk Tuk driver friend and I

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