Though the Covid-19 pandemic has made life a little darker for those who live from hand to mouth, it has also brought light through some form of human kindness.
In response to what he owes the Kingdom for having lived here for years, a Portuguese photographer has kicked-off a new initiative, using his camera-based artwork to help raise funds for an International NGO to support people without a safety net.
Miguel Jeronimo, the Phnom Penh-based photographer is offering for free, one of his artworks for every $50 donation.
“You can choose a photo from my Instagram account and email me your favourite one, I will then send a high-resolution file for you to print and get a cheap artwork as a thank you for the donation,” said Jeronimo.
He said he wanted to do something to give back to the Kingdom during this difficult time, especially for vulnerable communities.
There are Edjai (street waste pickers), informal workers, homeless families and people who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers from the tourism or entertainment industries are also included.
Jeronimo told The Post: “I set up the online campaign and I have been sharing with people who had the chance to maintain their income during this period and can help a little.”
The photographer whose photos are mostly related to environmental issues said he also invited his family members in Portugal to share with their friends and often transfer the money they received in cash to the campaign.
Other than that Jeronimo has been going to communities with Friends International’s field team to photograph their Covid-19-response and update the online campaign website with pictures from what’s happening there, including the delivery of emergency supplies such as rice or hygiene materials.
This is not the first time he has been doing such social work to help people in need. He has helmed exhibitions to generate awareness about topics that are mostly related to social inequalities, environment and human rights.
“However, this is my first time in Cambodia I’m doing a more hands-on approach,” said Jeronimo. And that’s also why he decided to collaborate with Friends International, an NGO with a great reputation and a long-term sustainable approach to poverty reduction.
He said the NGO has many social workers in the field who are working directly with the community, so it would be the most efficient way to help.
Friends International is currently supporting around 1,000 people (about 200 families) with emergency supplies.
It helps in terms of job placement or support to start a small business, vocational training and teaching simple skills that might facilitate to find a job.
“It’s really important to have a long-term approach, assisting them to help themselves in the long run, empowerment and fostering independence instead of just charity in the present moment,” he says.
Jeronimo’s latest project was ‘The New Apsaras’ which explored the ecological and social impact of the garment industry.
He explains that the relief budget offered to needy people depends on the assessment by the NGO field teams.
For instance, some families are assisted through finding them new jobs or being able to sustain their households through some other means.
“A $50 donation supports a family for one month to rebuild their lives. Also for every $50 you give I’ll give you a free photo.
“You can donate as much as you wish. It doesn’t have to be a specific amount. I understand this is a tough time for everyone in terms of employment so it will depend on how much each person can afford to donate.
“Every dollar helps! People who live in Cambodia and with an ABA account can also donate directly through the ABA app on their phones,” says Jeronimo.
He says the donation is for life-saving support including food and hygiene materials, long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts in vocational training, employment support and job placement.
The budget is also divided for the field team who has been doing their sustainable approach.
Jeronimo said this is just a continuation of the project Friends International is already doing in which, for instance, they reached out to 16,970 individuals last year.
“Now, they are giving out soap and raising hygiene awareness to fight the virus, such as hand-washing workshops for children.
“They are helping prepare for the long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts, including through market-aligned vocational training, employment support and job placement for those who have lost their livelihoods,” he says.
Jeronimo says they can find low-skill jobs like security guards in one of the many corporate partners the NGO has, or sponsor the purchase of chickens for a family to start a poultry business.
For young adults, that might also include training in skills such as welding or electrical work, barber or beauty salon – anything that can be useful to get a job.
“Hopefully we can empower the families to sustain themselves through new income generation activities, which will support the whole ‘breaking the poverty cycle’ approach ensuring the parents are putting their children through school,” said Jeronimo.
For more information about his charity contribution, follow Miguel Jeronimo on Instagram at migueljeronimophotography or call (+855) 10 298 091 or visit the campaign website at https://www.simplygiving.com/help-us-to-help-them-help-themselves