I’m catching up on some assignments I’ve completed over the past year, starting with a trip to Cambodia and Laos with Plan International Australia, so below are a selection of images highlighting the programs we visited.
In Cambodia we were looking at the challengers children face with nutrition and accessing education. Whilst the country is rapidly developing, most visibly in the cities such as Phnom Penh, you don’t have to go far from the main roads to see how poverty and lack of employment opportunities are affecting the younger generation.
One girl we met was 13 year old Sokhat who lives in a small village in Siem Reap. Despite living close to Angkor Wat, now one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations, Siem Reap remains one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia. Malnutrition continues to be a major problem with most children showing signs of malnourishment and 45% have experienced stunted growth.
Sokhat lives with her mum, Mean Khon, (52) in a small hut without power or water. They try to survive on a limited income Khon earns after her husband died of complications from a wound he received during the war. Khon herself is a survivor of that dark period, showing us scars from a gunshot wound to her leg received during an attack on her village.
Sokhat walks to school every day and along with her classmates, she receives a breakfast of fish, rice and beans as part of the Plan Australia supported school feeding program. It’s easy to understand how having a healthy, nutritious breakfast sets children up for the day with enough energy to learn and play.
The family also receives a bag of rice and a tin of oil to take home. Without this program Sokhat wouldn’t be able to attend school and would have to work to help support herself and her mother.
Her mother Khon said, “I want Sokhat to attend class and not be like me, who can’t read or write anything. This program has changed my life and it helps my daughter go to school.”
In Laos, early years education and hygiene were the focus of the programs. In the remote mountain district of Pha Oudom, many of the villagers are too small to run pre school classes which are considered essential for a child’s development.
Plan Australia helped parents set up playgroups for three to four year olds as well as a summer school for older students where they play and learn together in a safe environment.
One of the important parts of their early education is learning essential hygiene practices like how to wash their hands and brush their teeth.
Hygiene education lessons continue as the children get older. Vai (12), is a passionate supporter of hygiene education and even has the lyrics to a hygiene song she learnt at school hanging above her bed.
Vai says: “I always visit the toilet, wash my hands with soap, wash my clothes, take a bath, brush my teeth, wash my hair, clean my house, and wash dishes and keep my environment clean.”
Below is a short promotional video made mostly during the trip to Cambodia and Laos.