Kep City. Definitively, it is the time to promote the value of a austerity in Cambodia. It would be expected that a country that has suffered terrible times of poverty, violence, humiliation and hate, would produce people with a great sense of austerity. Reading the history of a Post-II World WarEurope, we understand what it means. Everybody was involved in reducing the amount of benefits and spending in order to reduce debt. After the Japanese earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear accident, we all admired the Japanese attitude to reduce spending and keep things like electricity. It became like a natural behavior, thinking always in the common good, without any imposition. No for Cambodia. Social inequality grows, while some privileged groups show up with expensive cars, to say just one thing, which cost could be enough to improve several rural schools. Not everybody, of course, but it is a reality easy to see on the roads. But it is more astonishing the behavior of certain NGOs behaving exactly in the same way.
Foreign members of NGOs should strictly show austerity and be an example of such value. We are not inviting you to become a Christian or Buddhist monk – though it would be an excellent model of behavior for a poor country like Cambodia. If the mission of your organization is to work for the improvement of life of unprivileged communities, it is just not okay that you charge your benefactors with expensive cars, luxury offices and mansions rising above our rice fields. It gives a very opposite message of what your organization suppose to do in Cambodia. Maybe it just want to create a clan of new rich people with hunger for money rather than thinking in the common good. It gives the idea also that your presence in our country is just for business. If you want to live in Cambodia as a tycoon, then change the identity of your organization and call it a company for investment.
Another thing is the topic of religious conversions. Your organization can belong to a particular faith. There is nothing wrong on it. But what is wrong is to buy faiths. Do orphans, for example, have an option to follow the religion of their ancestors or the religion of their benefactors? A careful ethical reflection should be done on this matter. A deep sense of cultural and traditional respect must be followed, a reflection that should not be imposed by any authority, but that must come from you, who promote Cambodia outside as a poor nation and show pictures of poor families in order to rise funds. Bought faiths are definitively vain. Children, the most sensitive group, should not be object of religious indoctrination.
Austerity is a social value, even in our best times. Even industrialized countries are invited to such attitude. The current global financial crisis teach us that unlimited spending can break the economical boundaries. We should work for a beautiful and modern country with people who are sensitive to the common good, able to respect the rights of others, ready to sacrifice their own likes to the best of the community, willing to donate time as volunteers and even donate funds for their own people. The compromise to fight poverty in Cambodia is not of the foreigners. We need them, yes. But the first people to be involved as responsible of their own development, are the same Cambodians.