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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Minorities to gain access to schools

Minorities to gain access to schools

FARMERS will be helped to improve their crops and send their children to school in Mondulkiri province, thanks to a project initiated by a member of Boulogne-sur-Mer Rotary Club in France.

The NGO Enfants d’Asie (Children of Asia) will be able to help Laokar village, populated by members of the ethnic Phnong minority.

French doctor Gérard Caplier, who has sponsored children through the association since 1990, proposed the Cambodian project to the Rotary Foundation in the United States.

It took more than two years to draw up plans and to convince about 60 European Rotary clubs to help raise US$24,000.

Several programmes will be run through the two-and-a-half-year project, which was launched last Wednesday. Families will be helped to develop livestock farming and agriculture, as well gain better access to water and to irrigation. Parents will also be given school stationery, rice and hygiene products if they send their children to school.

The Rotary Club, which needed an organisation on the spot to make the project successful, decided to call upon the officially recognised NGO Enfants d’Asie, which helps thousands of children. One of Cambodia’s four Rotary clubs will audit the project.

Enfants d’Asie already organises two-year training sessions for teachers from ethnic minorities, provided they return to teach in their home village. They also have similar programs with nurses and midwives.

“In this kind of project, we only act if it benefits minorities once the operation is over,” said Pierre-Jean Yvon, who oversees the programmes.

The organisation, founded in 1991, gives priority to the long term. “We want these people to become autonomous. We remain available for them when the programme is over but we ask them to try not to call us, so that they can be dignified,” Yvon said.

Isolated from the development of the country, Cambodian ethnic minorities live in the poorest rural provinces and have difficulties having access to public facilities. They also regularly suffer from bad harvests and natural disasters.

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