AFTER four months of community meetings, the Temple Garden Foundation will start a teacher-training program this month for eight villages in Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng district, program officials have said.
The foundation, established in February last year, has overseen infrastructure projects in Pongro Kraum, Spean Tnaut and Pongro Leu communes.
But program director Will Haynes-Morrow said development can be difficult in rural Siem Reap.
"When the Khmer Rouge acted as ‘community organiser,' they created a fear of community cooperation that persists to this day," Haynes-Morrow said.
And he believes the stigma against village unity is also being inadvertently supported by some NGOs.
"There's a counterproductive influence from a lot of NGOs with not-great strategies. I really have to say that the vast majority of NGOs have good intentions, and a large number are doing a good job. But it only takes a few to influence the community in a bad way."
Haynes-Morrow said that while NGO projects can benefit individuals, they can harm the community by diminishing its capacity to manage itself.
"If a village has the capacity to take on 30 percent of a project, but the NGO comes in and provides 100 percent, then there's disrespect for the villagers' ability to do something and ability starts to diminish."
The foundation challenges villagers to nominate their own project, create a schedule, write a budget and manage it. "We can see that people have a capacity to help on a project, but they've been influenced by other NGOs to the point where they say, ‘I'm poor and I can't do anything.'
"We're trying to get people to realise they have a lot of ability as a community, if they just come together."
The teacher training project will involve workshops for 34 area teachers, who have no formal credentials. The foundation is paying for the licensed instructor, but the villagers are contributing to the teacher's travel and lodging expenses.
"The idea is to connect them through their donations to the reality that, if they contribute, their children will have better education."