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Donors parade as the disabled suffer

17 Chris minko and racing team

Dear Editor,

Having worked at grassroots level in the area of Cambodian disability for 17 years, I’d like to give an example of how aid and development really work.

Westerners line their pockets as overpaid, ineffective consultants while Cambodia’s disabled remain the nation’s most marginalised group, despite multimillion-dollar funding from AusAID (and other big donors) having been spent over the past 20 years on disability development.

The Cambodian National Volleyball League for the Disabled (CNVLD) also manages a small wheelchair-racing program using second-hand racing chairs donated by individuals from Australia, Japan and Germany.

For months, the athletes have been repairing their tyres with all sorts of ingenious, home-grown methods, as the specialised tyres required cannot be sourced in Cambodia.

Despite many requests for AusAID staff to meet with the CNVLD, Cambodia’s only UN-recognised, best-practices NGO, to see if we could source funds for vital equipment, AusAID ignores us and expends large amounts on endless unproductive consultancies. Note: all we want are some tyres.

Last year, AusAID funded several workshops at the Naga casino, where Australian Red Cross expatriates, funded by AusAID, led a group of (confused) Cambodians in a group-hug session.

This group hugging took place four times, and always in the boardroom of the casino. It has been acknowledged as a failure.

Recently, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard trumpeted about how her government, via AusAID, will contribute $4 million-plus to disability issues in Cambodia (despite the previous four major AusAID contributions over the past 15 years, all of which have been dismal failures).

AusAID’s approach to disability in Cambodia is seriously affected by the insidious political correctness that has destroyed the fabric of Australian society.

Australians are suffering from “victim syndrome”; they all run around feeling sorry for themselves and hold group therapy sessions. Sadly, pseudo-left-wing political correctness has destroyed what was once a great nation.

The latest round of funding from Australia for the Cambodian disability sector is $4.6 million, to be spent between 2014 and 2018.

Yet again, an esoteric social exper-iment designed in Australia will be imposed on Cambodia with little to no effect.

Worse still, AusAID recently ann-ounced that a workshop would be held in the five-star Himawari hotel. (Yes, that’s correct: all AusAID’s conferences are held in five-star hotels or plush casinos.)

AusAID has grandly announced that it will have a partnership with UNDP for this round of funding.

Well, here’s how it works – UNDP will take 80 per cent in administration costs – it openly admits that – and local corruption will consume another 10 per cent, leaving, in the final analysis, a measly 10 per cent of the total budget allocation that may (and, I repeat, may) go to Cambodians with disabilities.

AusAID has done this for the past 20 years, with little or no progress to be seen within the Cambodian disability sector. The cry should be “Shame, AusAID, shame” (or “Shame, Gillard, shame”).

But back to tyres for the wheelchairs. The AusAIDs of this world won’t fund them because it doesn’t involve group hugging in a casino.

Damn! All we want are some tyres . . .

So the CNVLD, as always, turns to  a remarkable group of committed individuals such as Günter Feitl and the Eichenholz Gemeinde in Germany, Andrew Minko in Aust-ralia, Jonathan Van Smit from Hong Kong and many others who make small but vital donations that act-ually keep the CNVLD going as an effective organisation.

So this time, big thanks to Andrew Minko, who purchased the tyres in Oz, and to Gaye Miller, who brought them over.

It’s instructive how AusAID manages to spend millions on nothing (well, it does line expatriates’ pockets with rather large amounts of dollars), yet a group of committed humanitarians have kept the CNVLD alive for years so it can carry out much-needed, all-important work directly with Cambodians who have disabilities.

In the meantime, AusAID continues to hold endless meaningless workshops in five-star hotels.

Again, shame, AusAID and shame on you, Julia Gillard.
And to Australian taxpayers, I say: rest assured that your money is being wasted.

So here’s a picture of two athletes finally getting their tyres yesterday. Enjoy the image.

Christopher Minko
Phnom Penh

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