Today marks the first anniversary of the SCC-F2F Community Centre, set up last January by New York-based The Face-to-Face AIDS Project and Cambodian NGO Salvation Center Cambodia.
The centre provides rural families and young people with Khmer, English and maths lessons, runs dance and music classes and teaches composting and organic vegetable farming.
The centre, in Chreav commune about 15 minutes out of town, is celebrating with an open day from 2pm-4pm. Visitors can tour the vegetable garden, watch composting demonstrations and enjoy traditional drama, dance and music.
F2F was set up by Ohio native Ken Wong in 2003, initially as a Harvard Medical School initiative to document the AIDS pandemic in Malawi. Since then it has evolved into an NGO working with impoverished communities in Malawi and Cambodia – there are projects in Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.
Wong says, “We have two main programs: one is the children’s basic education program. Along with that we’ve introduced flower cultivation for the kids as well as traditional dance and music.
“The other part of our program is an organic garden system. We’ve got 20 households learning about organic gardening including composting, manure making from pigs and chickens, clean water mentality and using a fish pond to water the garden.
“But the real purpose is to get the households to start the gardens in their own plots of land so that other people begin to see what they’re doing. The idea is that other people will share their ideas.”
The centre is also setting up what Wong calls “the beginnings of a hydroponic thinking and practices.”
At today’s open day there will be speeches by the deputy governor and the head monk of Siem Reap, but the emphasis will be on the community members.
Wong adds that in the longer term F2F would like to introduce the idea of volunteering.
“The idea of the poorest doing volunteer work is sort of a different concept for them – it’s always, ‘I’m poor, maybe I can receive’,” he says. “We are trying to shift that into, ‘I’m poor but here’s what I can do and what I like to do and maybe I can volunteer to help build up my community and become a role model’.”