Land of Ancient Ruins

Cambodia is humid and lush country with a rich history, known for its beautiful landmarks and tourist destinations. The entire country is dotted with ancient temples, most notably the Angkor Wat temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the north west. The Mekong River, the lifeblood of Cambodia, flows through the country and contributes to Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake of Southeast Asia. In the south, the Elephant foothills provides a perfect climate for the growing and harvesting of the famous Kampot Pepper. The Khmer (pronounced kh-MAI) people are known for being charming and friendly to newcomers.

Recent decades have seen Cambodia troubled by foreign influences, such as the overbearing French colonialists and bombing by the United States during the Vietnam War.  The Khmer people suffered societal regressions and chaos after the brutal communist group, the Khmer Rouge, organized the genocide of over 2 million people. Pol Pot’s regime killed most of those who were educated, wiped out the education system, and tried to eradicate key aspects of their culture such as Buddhism.

Cambodia has recovered since that time and is making steady progress. Most of Cambodians work in the agriculture, garment, or government sectors. Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh sits on the bank of the Mekong and hosts over 2 of Cambodia’s 15.6 million people.

One of the most widely publicized lasting effects of Cambodia’s turmoil is the prevalence of human trafficking, particularly forced prostitution of Khmer women and children.  In 2016 a UNAIDS report estimated around 34,000 prostitutes within Cambodia at a given time. Those affected by this practice is actually far greater since it is common for impoverished husbands or mothers to sell their wives or children for a certain length of time, and then have them returned to their families.

This summer, HELP Internatinal will be working on a project called the "Mitt Chhlat Project" specifically focused on bringing communication/life skills, relationship, and sexual health education to disadvantaged teens in Cambodia. Their curriculum focuses on peer-mentored group discussions and aims to reduce toxic masculinity and promote equal rights for all genders. HELP volunteers will address the many sources of Cambodia’s rampant public health issues in their society, and empower the rising generation to become self-advocates and local changemakers.

The Mitt Chhlat project has partnered with a local university in Phnom Penh to offer internships to their Health students as Peer Mentors for Mitt Chhlat. The desired teaching model is to have Khmer young adults teaching Khmer teens.

Volunteers this summer would help in administrative tasks, such as:

  • Help train the Khmer Peer Mentors
  • Conduct surveys and focus groups to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum and teaching methods
  • Organize and oversee one time sexual health trainings and/or extended education programs at public schools throughout Phnom Penh and surrounding rural provinces
  • Evaluate teaching methods of Peer Mentors

Activities volunteers will participate in outside of the Mitt Chhlat Project will include, but are not limited to:

  • Teaching English at local schools and orphanages
  • Aiding rural farmers in planting rice and other agricultural endeavors
  • Helping in local infrastructure projects