Step into the Gap: How Cambodia changed me

Rod travelled to Cambodia with the Step into the Gap programme to meet CAFOD partners and the communities they work with.  One year on from his trip, Rod reflects on what it all meant to him.

Rod was a part of our gap year programme.
Rod reflects on his trip to Cambodia with CAFOD.

The way in which Cambodia changed me seems to come into view and then fall out again, oscillating in the busyness of life. When I was speaking to people about my trip to Cambodia almost every day, when it was my life, the changes it had made to me were more obvious. Now, to a certain extent they have become more blurred, because I am not thinking about the trip so much. But they are also clearer because I am able to look back at how it changed me from a distance.

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Defending Indigenous People’s Rights in Cambodia

Today marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. CAFOD’s Programme Officer in Cambodia, Sorphoarn Sok meets indigenous land activist Hean Heak to find out more about how he is helping his indigenous community stand up for their rights in Cambodia and defend their land from land grabs by large companies.

Activist Hean Heak is from Ngorn, a remote village in Kampong Thom province in central Cambodia which is home to the Kuoy Indigenous Peoples.

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Step into the Gap: The power of an encounter

As Lent comes to an end, Step into the Gap volunteer, Charlotte Bray, who is currently volunteering at Newman Chaplaincy, reflects on her recent trip to Cambodia and how this has inspired her Lent challenge.

Charlotte, who is taking part in Step into the Gap, meeting Cambodian communities.
Charlotte, who is taking part in Step into the Gap, meeting Cambodian communities.

When I travelled to Cambodia, as part of the Step into the Gap programme, I went with the expectation that I would meet some incredible people. I never realised that the encounters I had would have such a transformative effect on my life.

While I was in Cambodia, I had the pleasure of meeting an incredibly strong and resilient woman called Suong, she taught me a profound lesson that has changed the way I view the world.

There is still time to apply to Step into the Gap

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Step into the Gap: Thank you for wanting to help the Khmer people

During her visit to Cambodia, Lizzie Haydon, who is taking part in the Step into the Gap programme, spent time with a Cambodian community and spoke to a family, who have worked with CAFOD partner Srer Khmer, to receive training and resources.

Lizzie talks to Samorn about life in the community as she weaves traditional fish traps.
Lizzie talks to Samorn about life in the community as she weaves traditional fish traps.

During our second week in Cambodia, we visited rural communities supported by CAFOD partner Srer Khmer. One of the communities Srer Khmer work with is Lvear village in Pouk district, Siem Reap and we were honoured to be able to spend the night in the village, getting to know the villagers and understand their lives that little bit better.

Find out more about Step into the Gap

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Step into the Gap: Working together to weave change in Cambodian communities

James Ronan, who is currently taking part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap, talks about the village communities he spent time with in Cambodia where local organisations are empowering communities to change their lives for the better.

Step into the Gap volunteers walking through now flourishing fields
Step into the Gap volunteers walking through now flourishing fields

Cambodia’s long history, most recently the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, has “left many communities broken”, said Singha, one of the founding members of CAFOD partners, Village Support Group (VSG).

Find out more about Step into the Gap

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Step into the Gap: Small steps to make a big difference

The Step into the Gap volunteers have been meeting many communities in Cambodia, whose lives have been impacted by the support of CAFOD’s partners. Rod Howlett reflects on how a little bit of funding and support can transform a whole community.

Chhoy and Kov stand proudly in their new vegetable garden.
Chhoy and Kov stand proudly in their new vegetable garden.

 It is the fourth full day in Cambodia and our first full day visiting a community that CAFOD supports. We’ve had the time for briefing, adjusting to Cambodian culture and getting rid of jet lag as best we can.

Today we will be able to have our first proper conversations with the villagers, finding out how they have been helped by CAFOD’s funding. This first community is the Ou Breus in Rukhakiri District, Battambang Province.

Find out more about Step into the Gap

Here, CAFOD has provided the money for a local organisation, Village Support Group (VSG), to set up a three-year project working with the community to help them find the means to diminish the level of poverty in the village.

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16 Days: “The choice to end violence against women starts with you.”

Cassandra Mok, CAFOD’s Country Rep for Cambodia & Myanmar, shares her thoughts on why violence against women and girls is such an important issue.

16-Days-Cambodia
Men in Cambodia wearing white ribbons, a symbol of solidarity against gender-based violence.

A friend of mine once confided that her high school boyfriend used to hit her and drag her around by the hair. It surprised me, as I always saw her as this clever, articulate and powerful woman. I asked her why she put up with it for so many years. After explaining that both her parents used to beat her in anger, she simply stated: “Everyone who loved me hit me. So I believed that if someone loved you, they hit you.”

Learn more about CAFOD’s work on gender

Gender-based violence affects both men and women, boys and girls. It affects the family as well as the society we share. Violence is not solely about personal safety, it’s about how we communicate our emotions and how we resolve conflict. Children learn how they should treat others and how they deserve to be treated from those around them. Growing up in a violent situation makes it a norm. These children grow into adults with conceptions on how to interact with each other and with expectations that it’s normal to hit or to be hit.

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‘Thanks to CAFOD, I’m not missing out on the world.’

Orla, from London, recently spent a week volunteering at the CAFOD Romero House office. Find out why she thinks young people care about climate change, and who inspired her during her time with the CAFOD team.

Orla volunteering in CAFOD's Romero House office
Orla volunteering in CAFOD’s Romero House office

As an internet-savvy teenager, I have the sort of constant access, 24 hours a day, to the world via social media that my parents never even dreamt of. It’s all there, virtually, and for better or worse, at the touch of a button. News is readily available, telling me stories from half way across the world that I share while sitting on my sofa at home.

For my generation, therefore, the world seems like a smaller place than ever before. And that is reinforced by living and going to school in London. I am part of one of the most ethnically diverse communities anywhere on the globe. In my year group of 96 at my Catholic school, I am one of only four whose parents and grandparents were born and brought up in the UK. So I can learn about such a variety of different cultures by just talking to the person sitting next to me in class.

Speaking Up on 17 June

When looking around my class I know of many members of my friendship group who feel too swept up in the shallowness and unfulfilment that comes with social media. One of the integral parts of my Catholic school is to reach out and help others through charity work. Therefore I know of so many of my peers who seized the opportunity to take part in the Speak Up for the Love of… climate lobby on the 17 June.

Read about the lobby

CAFOD supporters of all ages at the Climate Coalition lobby
CAFOD supporters of all ages Speak Up at the Climate Coalition lobby of parliament

I believe that young people in our society often get the reputation of being uncaring delinquents. However, I speak for many my age when I stress that being a teenager in a world where suffering is so present, where the future of the planet we have to grow up in seems to be spiralling out of control, where the effects of climate change are already being seen, really terrifies us and leaves us feeling powerless.

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