The resilience of the people of Vietnam and Cambodia is truly amazing. Conflict and political upheval spanning many generations has hindered national growth and development, fractured and fragmented cultures and contributed to unacceptably high levels of poverty, hardship and an appalling quality of life that for many, continues to this day. In spite of this, these people generally seem to accept this as their fate and manage to overcome daily challenges that most of us in the developed world would find insurmountable.
Poverty is ugly and destructive. The well worn tourist trails of South East Asia give most travellers only the smallest glimpse of the poverty that exists behind the urban tourist facades and in rural areas. It is here where communities frequently live without water, sanitation or electricity, in homes constructed of palm leaves and bamboo with earth floors, where medical facilities are non existent and even the most basic education facilities are not available, or are difficult to access.
It is in this environment where the accumulation of non essential assets is inconceivable and where it is an ongoing struggle to put the next meal on the table. Their entire lives are dedicated to survival.
Imagine for a moment living a life of permanent thwarted ambition. For example, a willing, intelligent child being unable to gain a quality education, or perhaps a hard working, skilled man or woman unable to obtain employment, or start their own business, or even simply the inability of a person to provide the basic necessities for their family. These are things that most of us may consider as our right, or at least take for granted. Add to this the possibility of one or more members of the family, perhaps the breadwinner, being chronically ill or disabled. All of this with little chance of significant government assistance. There is no safety net of any consequence.
This is the tough, uncompromising world of millions of disadvantaged people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The various cultures that exist in these countries are, to say the least, quite complex. The principal drivers of the values, relationships and aspirations of these people are history and culture, the latter having to survive and adapt to the various impositions that have occurred during the last 150 years, when great strains have been placed on the fabric of their society.
In a practical sense, dealing with the manifestations of these cultures, combined with the day to day aid delivery issues common to most developing countries can be challenging and, at times overwhelming. These issues however must be put aside and aid delivered in a manner which not only respects the culture, but preserves the personal dignity and self esteem of the recipient. The expression “capacity building” is often used to describe the practice of providing assistance that enhances the resources, latent abilities and self reliance of a community and which is sustainable long term at a local level and with local input. Educating children is one of the precursors of capacity building because ultimately many will become central to the process. This is one of the reasons why Project Indochina has such a strong education component in its aid program.
Project Indochina aid programs are grouped into the following three classifications. Click links below to view further information on each.
Click here to view Economic & Social Data relating to poverty and its effects in South East Asia relative to developed nations.