Volunteering with Oxfam in Cambodia

Blogs article written on the 13 Apr 2010

Photo: OxfamAus

I’m Dustin (from Melbourne) and I’m in Cambodia, volunteering with Oxfam for 18 months through AusAID’s VIDA program.

I am training the Cambodian Oxfam team in report writing, analysis and media skills, while working on getting some new media projects off the ground. Report writing helps us better explain and evaluate Oxfam’s development work in Cambodia. Media training is full of exciting possibilities that focus on photography, video and new media to give people a broader insight into what’s happening in the country. Also exciting is the plan to develop some participatory media projects with local communities, where men, women and young people can talk about their lives and what development means to them.

In this blog I want to talk about what development is, how it happens and how it impacts people’s lives. And, if there’s something you want to know just ask me. A two way conversation will be more interesting than just my thoughts.

Oxfam: What are they up to?

I’m based in the Oxfam office in Phnom Penh, where about half of our staff are based. The other half are out in the four rural and remote provinces of Stung Treng, Takeo, Kratie and Mondulkiri. My workmates are friendly, welcoming, keen to learn and to teach — the consensus has it that I should be fluent in Khmer, with their help, in one year. I’ll be working hard to make it happen. My initial work has focused on getting familiar with the different Oxfam programs in the country (there are lots of them) and working with the managers from each province on some case studies.

The projects focus on integrated community development (ICD — development loves acronyms), which is a group of programs that aim to create positive change. For example, a loan from a buffalo bank increases food and economic security for a person living in poverty, while training health workers improves health. The idea is that to be most effective you need changes across the board. The level of planning is impressive. For example, a family in a village might receive only one buffalo, but two buffaloes are needed to plough fields. This encourages villagers to cooperate with each other, which in turn boosts social cohesion and community engagement.

I’m excited about the possibilities of the next 18 months. Feel free to shoot through any questions about my work and what it is like to live in Cambodia.

Li sohn hi (goodbye)