Unicef reveals a different perspective on Cambodia and its people

Unicef reveals a different perspective on Cambodia and its people

This summer, Unicef took a group of HK young envoys to Cambodia to see what life is like for children living there. Here is an account

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Alison found out about the dangers of 'poverty tourism' in Cambodia.
Photo: Unicef

Of all the memories from being part of Unicef Young Envoys Programme 2015, the one that stands out the most is our trip to Cambodia. A chance to learn while travelling, the experience allowed a group of young people from Hong Kong to see how Unicef is working to improve the lives of children in Cambodia.

Before I set off, I read a lot about the country and the reality of life for many of its children. I knew it was a poor country that needs help and resources, but wasn't aware of how non-governmental organisations (NGOs), like Unicef, are actually using the donations to carry out different kinds of work and assist children in developing countries.

The charity holds health forums to inform village chiefs and volunteers about health issues, so that knowledge can be spread throughout communities. Despite a lack of materials, they make the most of what they have, and I was impressed by how the meetings are conducted. 

It was encouraging to learn that the forums are no longer run by Unicef, but by the local government. This is part of the organisation's plan to eventually be no longer required in Cambodia by handing over its work to the authorities. 

Additionally, it means that the Cambodian government has started focusing its efforts on the nation's health, instead of just economic growth.

It's important to raise awareness about poverty tourism, such as visiting orphanages, which has become increasingly popular.

The tourists may think they are helping the children, but often they're not. Their visit might make the orphanages deliberately mistreat the children and keep living standards low, in order to attract more donations. 

I developed strong feelings against this kind of tourism. Every child has dignity and no-one should be exploited in this way.

At the end, I realised that I'm really interested in children's rights. The knowledge we gained from the training taught us about things we may have been either unaware of, or indifferent about.

There are many options for those who want to help. Often, the best move is to take action. To quote Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Make that first step a stride by joining Unicef Young Envoys Programme 2016. Don't miss this golden chance to safeguard children's rights!

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Reaching out to the needy

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