Meet Sopharan, field staff of Community Development in Stong 2, Cambodia
At this year’s 30-Hour Famine, we had the privilege to meet and hear from Sopharan, our colleague from Cambodia.
Sopharan has 10 years of experience working with World Vision Cambodia to bring about transformation to the communities in Kampong Thom Province.
Q1: Tell us a little about yourself and your role in World Vision.
As the Operations Manager, I oversee and lead the development work in seven Area Development Programmes, ensuring that the needs of the community especially the most vulnerable families and children are met. It’s been 10 years and yes, I do feel at times, that World Vision is more than a workplace to me; it is really my home.
I can identify with the children and communities we work with as I too was born into a poor family in Kampung Speu, a province 50km west of Phnom Penh. My large family of seven struggled to survive and my other siblings had to stop school at the age of 12 to support the family. I was blessed to have been able to complete Grade 12 but was at a roadblock when I wanted to enrol into university due to financial constraints. I am truly indebted to my younger sister, who was 18 then – she stopped studying and started working in a factory to pay for my pedagogy training.
What I regret most in my life is not being able to support my sister’s studies because when I found a stable job and had enough income, it was too late for my sister to go back to school.
Q2: How does World Vision work within the community?
There are three key components – community mobilisation, community empowerment and partnership.
World Vision sends the field staff to live and work alongside the community. Through the building of relationship and trust, we mobilise the community to help their people. In the assessment phase, World Vision tries to understand the needs and together with the community; we design a plan. We emphasise the empowerment of the communities themselves, i.e. for them to be agents of change.
World Vision does not work alone. We understand the importance of partnership. We partner relevant stakeholders when implementing development work within the community.
Q3: Share with us the work and current focus of World Vision Cambodia in working with the communities.
Our current objectives include reducing the high level of malnutrition, increasing the quality of primary education, empowering youths to be creative and active citizens, and protecting children from abuse and exploitation.
Our approach is simple – we work to address the needs of the entire family. For the children, World Vision has worked with youths and local authority to set up Children’s Clubs within the community where children can play and learn. For their parents, World Vision has worked to establish savings groups and together with relevant departments, we provide training such as animal raising and vegetable planting. This helps to improve their livelihoods so that they can provide for their children. In addition, we also teach them about health care, hygiene and to better care for their children.
Q4: Referring back to the issue of malnourished children, how is World Vision Cambodia working to address this?
Today, about 32% of children in Cambodia are malnourished and 38% of them are from Kampong Thom. Our field staff go directly into the villages and together with village volunteers, they identify children who are malnourished. Thereafter we work with the local health centres to conduct awareness and growth monitoring programmes. In addition, cooking demonstrations are conducted to teach caregivers about nutrition and ways to prepare affordable nutritious meals. Local villagers are mobilised to conduct these programmes on a monthly basis. We also conduct home visits to encourage and support each family, ensuring that the children maintain a nourishing diet.
Q5: Can you tell us why World Vision does what it does? And as a field staff, can you share what motivates or encourages you to keep going every day?
We, at World Vision want to see that children in the communities are well-nourished, educated and protected. Our vision is that ‘Every child enjoys life in all its fullness.’
I have many stories from the field to share and each encounter inspires me to do what I do. Surely, working in the field is not easy as we have to travel in the heat, rain and brave through the cold winter in the villages. But nothing can stop us from helping the children in our community. For me, the biggest reward is seeing the children I work with succeed.
There are two reasons why I do what I do every day. First, the opportunity to use my life to serve children, community and my country. Secondly, by working with World Vision, I also have the opportunity to serve our God to help the poor.
Today, three million Cambodians live below the poverty line. 40% of children under the age five are malnourished, and more than 200,000 children are victims of child labour. Globally, there are many children who are still struggling in dire poverty.
Consider contributing to the 30-Hour Famine or sponsor a child to help those who are struggling with hunger and poverty!