In the shadows of the impressive Angkor Wat temple lies widespread poverty and tales of horror. Pol Pot, the Marxist leader of The Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, was responsible for one of the prolific killings in 20th-century history. Millions of assumed educated families were driven from their homes in cities and towns across Cambodia to work on community-farms. Entire families were incarcerated and died from overwork, starvation, disease and execution. Anyone wearing spectacles or those that were doctors and teachers faced en masse execution. A staggering 65% of the population of the country today is under the age of 25; there is not one family that hasn’t been affected by this brutal regime.
Today, Cambodia is on most travellers bucket-list of places to visit, a relatively unexplored country that boasts a tropical climate, seemingly endless temples and occupied with fiercely proud and friendly people. 2018 saw almost two million tourists visit this ancient area of the country. The most famed era of history is between the 9th– and 15th-centuries during the Kymer rule. Many families that live in rural areas earn less than $2.00 per day, which doesn’t allow them the luxury of affording education or simple drinking water wells.
Jenni Lipa founded the Cambodian Community Dream Organization in 2007. She and a friend had been visiting and exploring the spectacular temples and countryside surrounding them. They had witnessed this poverty first hand, which led them to question their guide about how they could help the Cambodian people. He suggested a water well, they dug deep in their purses and gave their guide the required $220: two weeks later, they received emails and photographs of the completed well and the families using it. Jenni, having seen the poverty and the difference a small amount of money could make to peoples lives went on to build 100 more wells in less than eight months with the help of her extensive network of generous people.
Jenni has had a positive effect on over 50,000 people and has provided over 1400 wells in this short space of time. Not only are wells and latrines provided, but local adults undergo training so that they can teach basic hygiene techniques like washing hands and cleaning teeth to children. Much of the water in the villages still comes from streams; run-off water can contain viruses, bacteria, fertiliser, animal and human waste. Clean water comes from deep wells but still requires filtration. For many of the remote villages; life hasn’t changed for generations. Most villagers are rice farmers at subsistence level and up to two-thirds of households face food shortages each year.
CCDO is a small NGO that is run by international volunteers and paid local staff. Jenni believes that the children of the community hold the key to the future of the country’s future. They are entitled to fresh water and education, better nutrition and improved overall health. CCDO has partnered with Cause Vision, an American non-profit organisation that helps prevent human trafficking. It is one of the most lucrative crimes across the world, and more than 600,000 are thought to be trafficked annually for enslavement in factories, brothels, as home-help or even as child brides. Up to a third of the trafficked population are believed to be children forced into begging rings, soliciting, street vending and flower selling. Cause Vision has created a comic book that warns the targeted populations about the dangers. To date, over 12,000 copies have been distributed to these remote communities. CCDO has initiated three social entrepreneurship projects. Piglet farming, vegetable gardening and soap selling. The community has the opportunity to study each of the programmes for the villagers to have the chance to build an income for their families.
There are many ways that people from around the world can be involved with the CCDO projects: through making the right decisions and supporting ethical tourism and travelling with a purpose, donating or taking part in their volunteer programmes. For further information, please visit https://www.theccdo.org. CCDO believes in a hand-up; not a hand-out.