How to Deal With Poverty in Cambodia
As a tourist it can be hard to know how to help, but there are many reputable NGOs that you can help either through donations or volunteering.
Fortunately due to support from people just like you there is renewed hope in Cambodia and political stability for the first time in 30 years.
What Caused Poverty in Cambodia?
Until recently Cambodia had been ravaged by three decades of civil war
and torn apart by the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge regime and Pol Pot. The
Maoist government and its subsequent terrorism on the country held
Cambodia to ransom and led to starvation, economic disaster and immense
poverty in Cambodia.
Thankfully the dark days of the Khmer Rouge are behind Cambodia and its people look towards a more hopeful future. Unfortunately, Cambodia still finds itself in economic dire straits, with the average annual wage only US$256. Corruption within the government has also been a major cause of poverty in Cambodia since the expulsion of the Khmer Rouge.
Judged by the standard of the UN Human Development Report, Cambodia is among the poorest countries in the world: it ranks 121 out of 164 on the human development index. When you're there, this poverty rises up and slaps you squarely in the face, there is no avoiding it.
You will be approached by children and adults selling all manner of things, while you sit and try to eat your lunch at a café. And you will be confronted by land mine victims who are missing limbs, blinded: or both. That is the sad reality of Cambodia.
How to Deal With Poverty in Cambodia
No one who comes to Cambodia remains unaffected by the troubling sights
of beggars and people who are desperately poor. What makes it even
harder to accept is that Cambodians deal with their struggles with
incredible good humor and fortitude. The problem of poverty in Cambodia
can be overwhelming and it can be difficult to know how to deal with
the poverty you witness.
Most travelers can see their way clear to give a few coins to beggars, or shout a street urchin a free meal. It may also be helpful to locals, to pay a little above the odds for services and products, but still within the reasonable price range.
These measures are kind and helpful, but some say that the best way to help ease poverty in Cambodia and to develop a deep sense of satisfaction as well as getting to experience more of the “real” Cambodia may be through volunteering or donations to reputable charities operating in Cambodia either before you come on vacation, during or after you return home.
In Siem Reap it is also helpful to ensure that your hotel is locally run and the money you spend is going to the people who need it most desperately and not wealthy foreign entities. It pays to do a little research before you go.
There is also a different school of thought about this whole business of helping the Cambodians. Since there are so many NGOs and charity organizations, some people say that these good intentioned people are not actually helping the people in the long run. To be so dependant on foreign aids may have a negative effect on the people's own sense of empowerment and in turn passively waiting for help and handouts.
The FutureCambodia's poverty is certainly grim, but things are slowly improving
throughout the kingdom. Foreign investment in tourist towns such as
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh has led to more jobs and hope.
Plus, there are several foreign agencies and non-governmental organizations that have developed programs to train poverty stricken Cambodians and equip them with skills to gradually haul their way out of extreme poverty.
There are programs such as “Seeing Hands” in Phnom Penh that trains blind Cambodians in massage and then places them in one of their six massage centers in the capital. These disabled people are able to earn a decent local wage with their skills and slowly move towards better lives for them and their families.
There are many schools that are being sponsored and built by foreigners just like you who have been affected by the land of smile and their enthusiasm for life with limited prospects for many.
So In Short...Cambodia's poverty still touches much of the population who struggle
to survive on their meager incomes, but with continued support from
committed citizens and non-governmental organizations it is hoped that
the next generation will begin to see improvements in lifestyle, health
Corruption needs to be taken firmly in hand to ensure that public funds so urgently required for schools and health are not gobbled up by greedy bureaucrats or politicians.
Have A Story To Share About This?
Please do share your story if you have seen or exprienced poverty in Cambodia first hand.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
A Better Life Not rated yet
I have made two trips to Cambodia, the most recent lasting just over three months. When I visited my tuc tuc driver's family in their 8x10 foot bamboo …
Cambodia Family Support Not rated yet
Cambodia Family Support is one of many non governmental organization committed to improve quality of life of the most vulnerable children and their parents …
Foreign tourist view on poverty in Cambodia Not rated yet
It's awful to see old people, in their late 60's, 70's, and even 80's still working in order to make just enough for food. I saw an 80 year old lady working …
I feel Bad Not rated yet
When I was in Cambodia I went to a market/restaurant to eat with my dad and uncle and sister and cousin. Then an old poor women came up and said "Please …
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