December 25, 2007

251206 Silent Night in Nong Khiaw - part 2

As for Mr Belgian 2's second statement, that 'Khmer men only want money - money money money'...the cat came across this blog post that quotes from one of Dr Meas Nee's books:

Meas Nee, a Cambodian teacher and activist who lived through the genocide, has written one of the few (the only one that I have been able to get my hands on) accounts of reconstruction and development from the perspective of Cambodian villagers of which he himself was one. In "Towards Restoring Life in Cambodian Villages" he writes:

"Even though we all say that we want to empower the people to be self-reliant, sometimes the work in the village begins with a westerner coming in with the Cambodian team. This is not a wise things to do. White skinned people are seen as rich and naturally the villagers hope they can get something. In one village where I work the returnees encourage the village people to ask the westerner for help as westerners in the border camps gave many handouts. The returnees said, 'This should be given free, not as a loan or as food for work. They are rich. They have the power to help.' If a Cambodian goes into a village with a Westerner the people will believe that the Westerner is the boss. This may be something that remains with our people from French colonial times." (p. 52)

Which basically sums up some of what the cat has been told about the long-term advantages of having local NGO leaders/staff (vis a vis the overwhelming presence of foreign aid organisations in certain developing countries), & the efforts of organisations like Village Focus International to 'build local capacity' & train local staff to take over most of the operations...while the barang (Khmer, not Malay meaning) or falang remain in the background handling stuff like fundraising, stepping in only to help with & pass on (usually technical) expertise (e.g. medical/surgical skills, UXO clearance, etc). & this local/foreign division need not necessarily be in terms of nationality - the cat has heard similar sentiments from hilltribe people about having hilltribe-run NGOs (e.g. AFECT) instead of 'city people' deal with their issues.

The best teacher is one who makes him/herself redundant, by teaching students how to teach themselves...likewise the 'ideal' aid organisation is one that eventually makes itself redundant' in a similar way? The above post & others on the same blog are worth a read. The 'colonial mentality' thing still makes itself felt in many ways here in Singapore, another former (British) colony.

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