I am volunteering through the International Citizen Service. This is a scheme funded by the UK government which trains 18-25 year olds to help create sustainable change in the communities which need it the most, and then supports them in using the skills they have gained to help their own communities once they return.
VSO is the lead partner for the ICS consortium and also the world’s leading NGO that fights poverty by sending volunteers. In keeping with their commitment to sustainable development they do not send aid to countries, and all work that volunteers accomplish must be maintainable by the community.
On the 11th June I will be leaving for my placement in Cambodia, which focuses on education. The programme’s vision is that:
All Cambodians have the relevant education, skills and ability to access employment and livelihood opportunities, enabling them to have choice, voice and control over their lives.
Despite significant improvements in the education system over the last twenty years many, particularly in rural areas, are being offered inadequate education. This stems from lack of facilities and resources and poor knowledge of curriculums and teaching frameworks. A particular problem is that of enrollment; in such a young population many households may struggle financially if their child is in school, and those that do enroll do not necessarily have the life skills and guidance to improve their prospects.
With this in mind, the project’s aims are to:
- Improve the school learning environment for local children and youth, which will in turn contribute to better results and lower dropout rates
- Increase youth life skills and access to information to improve personal and financial wellbeing.
- Improve engagement of wider community in the education system
The Cambodia Education Project is still in its infancy and so the current task for volunteers is to lay the foundations for meaningful change. This involves consulting the community and stakeholders to form a comprehensive view of the key issues and potential ways in which to advance together to resolve these. This will mostly consist of needs assessing the local schools, awareness raising, resource development and some peer education and training in schools.