“MY daily work is not only insecure but also dangerous,” says Long Chhaya, 24, who works in a project that helps people who have AIDS or are HIV-positive.
She is employed by Maryknoll, a charitable organisation that plays an important role in supporting HIV and AIDS sufferers.
Two weeks ago, I travelled half an hour from my house to Long Chhaya’s workplace in Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Khrom district.
I spent about one and a half hours talking with her and and learning about her exper-iences and her daily work.
First, she described her background. After graduating from Interak Tevy High School, she enrolled for two years at the Don Bosco Vocat-ional Training Centre, which provided only two main majors: accounting and secretarial skills.
The Don Bosco centre requires all its students to take an internship at an NGO or another place related to the major they are studying, and Long Chhaya chose Maryknoll.
At first, she worked as an assistant, but soon changed to social work because she wanted to develop her knowledge.
“I thought that working as an assistant wouldn’t allow me to improve my knowledge and skills, but changing to social work would enable me to learn more,” Long Chhaya says.
These days, Long Chhaya, who has been a staff social worker since 2009, is involved in Seedling of Hope Youth, a project to help and support those from the age of 18 up who have HIV and come from poor families.
All Maryknoll staff who worked on the project contacted their HIV-positive clients, but as customers rather than patients.
The project involved separating these clients into three groups that coached them in psychology, gaining a livelihood and proper nutrition. Long Chhaya works with the livelihood group.
Her mission is to help her customers in Kandal province by providing them with enough money to establish a small business and thus improve their living standard.
All Long Chhaya’s customers receive not only money but also education about health and plenty of encouragement.
During her time working on the project, however, she has encountered a few difficulties, such as when her customers haven’t followed the advice she has given them.
“I tell my customers they aren’t allowed to drink alcohol, play cards or smoke, but some of them still do it again and again.
Sometimes I don’t know how to stop them,” Long Chayya says.
“Because the places where my customers live are sometimes squats, it is dangerous for me as a girl to go there alone.”
Along with her difficulties, however, Long Chhaya has had happy times.
When her customers do well in their lives by following the advice she has given them, she is very happy that she could share her knowledge with them.
“If customers follow what I have told them and take care of their health, that is all the reward I need,” she says.
Long Chhaya has a lot of work to get through every day.
In the mornings, she goes to visit her customers who live in Phnom Penh at their homes to check on their health and any problems they may have. In the afternoons, she returns to her office and writes reports about her customers.
Long Chhaya is working hard in her job because she wants to improve herself and help her customers, not only in Kandal province and Phnom Penh, but also in other provinces.
“People in other provinces of Cambodia are waiting for us to help them,” she says.