James Ronan, who is currently taking part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap, talks about why partnership is the key driver for change and how this CAFOD value is put into practice in rural communities in Cambodia.
CAFOD has seven values that inspires the work that they carry out across the world these are compassion, hope, dignity, solidarity, partnership, sustainability and stewardship. During our two and half weeks in Cambodia one of the things that particularly struck me was the sense of community and partnership in every village community we spent time with. For me partnership was a key CAFOD value that we all saw in practice over the few weeks we spent in Cambodia. Partnership comes from the call of our Christian faith to work together building the links between the communities CAFOD works with across the world, with the Catholic community here in England and Wales working together to help build God’s kingdom here on earth.
In our first week of our visit we spent time with CAFOD partner Village Support Group (VSG) working in the village of Ou Breus in Battambang. We saw the community linkages and partnerships that had already been established and took part in a committee meeting listening to the community who were putting the support of CAFOD into practice.
We heard how the community committee was very thankful for CAFOD’s support in their three year project “Water Saves Lives” helping to support in providing access to clean water and education in hygiene to avoid disease. Tuc Nang the community leader said to us “that he was happy and hopeful for the future livelihoods of people in the village, and that the community was very happy to have learnt water management skills and water resource management.” He ended our time spent with the committee by saying that “the community liked CAFOD’s grass roots local level approach of partnership in supporting the community over the next three years.” It was such a thankful statement, a testament about the way CAFOD works as an organisation and all the committees we met during our visit in Cambodia all said the same thing.
In the second week we witnessed the community partnerships between CAFOD’s partner Srer Khmer and village communities. The project in these communities is socio-economic empowerment enabling women, men and children to make changes in their villages. We saw a woman’s cooking demonstration in Tipadey village supported by CAFOD, these demonstrations occur once a month in the community. The sharing of advice on using more vegetables in meals (in Cambodia many rural families do not eat the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables) have really helped families eat healthier. Alongside this there was also a focus on hygiene education the washing of hands before and after meals.
In Tipadey village I also had the privilege of meeting one of the members of CAFOD’s partnership programme Connect 2, Dos la and his family. Connect 2 in Cambodia is a fairly recent expansion of CAFOD’s parish partnership programme. This programme is about sharing. Sharing the monumental fundraising work conducted by parishioners in England and Wales with village communities in Cambodia and Cambodian communities sharing their stories and the impact of CAFOD’s work back with those in the UK.
The programme of Connect 2 for me encompasses all of CAFOD’s values. Compassion (through wanting to help our global brothers and sisters), hope (sharing hope for change), dignity (that we are all equal in the eyes of God), solidarity (sharing each other’s struggles), partnership (working together for change), sustainability and stewardship (remembering that the cry of the Earth is inherently linked with the cry of the poor and that we should look after the global resources entrusted to us). The people of Tipadey are very thankful for CAFOD’s support and look forward to the continuing partnerships of the future.
After our two and half week’s experience of hearing from village communities and seeing them working together with CAFOD’s support, me and all the other gappers came away from Cambodia with a greater appreciation of the importance of CAFOD’s work in Cambodia and the continued need to learn from one another. Partnership is at the heart of this, a key driver to generate real positive change.