The academic year is nearly to finish in Cambodia and it is time to start to see what we got this year for our children and youth. It is more often to see the boys wearing nice T-shirt with English letters, while foreigners buy T-shirts with Khmer inscriptions. Either the foreigners or the Cambodian boys do not understand what they are wearing, but it seems to be nice.
One of the things we discussed in classes this year was that nice T-shirt bought in the market by USD 2 with a rabbit head and the unmistakable “Playboy”. Of course, the Cambodian boys, with a little English, think that “Playboy” means “Being smart”. Many of those T-shirts came in big containers with donations from countries as far as USA, Canada or Europe.
When you opened those containers with donations from good-heart people who wanted to support the Cambodian development, you can find curious things: I have seen coats for a Siberian whether with gloves and cotton hats, big bras, sledges, huge old computers with Windows 1986, typewriters as old as 1964, used clothe with wholes, big clothes for people as tall as 1.90 meters height, big shoes with number as 40 to 50…
What is the problem is that poverty is understood since our point of view. Actually poverty is not a matter of having things or not. If you are in France and you have a big mansion with all the technologies and comodities, you could consider that a Cambodian family with a wooden house in the middle of a swamp is the poorest family of this world. Therefore, you decide to equip this family, to help them to overcome such poverty. You send to them the last in technology in television sets, refrigerators, ovens, those beautiful and costly clothes you do not use more… when you sent it, the Cambodian family is very happy to receive it, but after they sell all of those things in the market and get their money, the same they will use to make a great party, drinking beer and telling their friends that they got their own good-hearted foreigners abroad to care for their needs, while they feed their ten cows, growing in their rice field and spending a lot of many in their traditional feasts.
I can see also many foreigners going around with Cambodians suppose-to-be poor guys. Better I would say, I see many Cambodians going around with their foreign that looks after their needs. What happens now here is that everybody is “poor” and everybody asks something, while the real poor are actually covered, far in marginalized territories, or hidden under their own ignorance.
I think it does not happen only in Cambodia, but around the world in poor countries. Feeling sorry about our people is not the best way to overcome our situations. It is proven that in front to foreigners; many just sit down to wait to be fed. Having a good-hearted foreigner as a friend that feels sorry for me is actually a good investment.
I think the best way to help poor countries is education and values formation. The idea is creating educative spaces, donating knowledge, skill and experience, in order to make the Cambodians and any other people around the world, to do by them. Teaching how to catch the fish and not giving the fish. If you give the fish once, he will sit down to wait for you a second time for the second fish. Therefore, you are promoting laziness.
Some groups of foreigners expend time and human resources moving to Cambodia to build houses for the poor. That is a beautiful experience since a point of social services. However, the house is built by foreigners and the Cambodian family goes to live there. The house will not be repaired by the Cambodians, because they will sit down to wait those helpful foreigners to return and do by themselves. I have seen some of those foreign-made-houses and I do not see the Cambodians living there caring enough as it were their own house.
At the other hand, those small seminars, courses, levels, technical schools, formative conferences, directed by foreigners and followed by Cambodians; prove to have a best future.
Stop to send us things! Send us education! It is what we need.