This blog began with a focus on my experience as a Cuso International / Voluntary Service Overseas volunteer in Cambodia. I arrived in 2013 to work on a governance project bringing together a coalition of civil society organisations working towards decentralisation reforms across the country. I had the chance to listen to numerous voices at the grassroots level on issues that mattered most to citizens. Working with a wide range of stakeholders, we strengthened the network and consequently helped to shape a stronger collective voice to inform government at all levels.
One of my major observations during the first year in Cambodia was the significant lack of locally-led data or evidence on issues that were being brought up at the grassroots level. I also saw signs of conflict at so many levels during a politically charged period. Not only in Cambodia, but across the region. In Cambodia, the Vietnamese became a clearer target as a root of social and political problems for many Cambodian nationals. In Thailand, the coup d’état and re-establishment of a military junta in the middle of a huge civil society divide caused fear of instability and virtually shut down Bangkok for months on end. In Myanmar, a Buddhist backlash towards Muslims in one region sparked a national crisis that witnessed violence again Muslim minorities in areas across the country. In 2014, I had the opportunity to join a a research organisation that is monitoring the peace process in Myanmar. It explores the voices of unheard groups, such as foot soldiers themselves, military, and ethnic minorities to name a few. It does this through systematic investigation and data gathering inside remote areas that are often not covered by mainstream media or even key players.
The audience I’m primarily writing for consists of stakeholders in my life – namely family, friends, and generous supporters who have donated both funds and in-kind contributions to start my journey off in Cambodia through Cuso. I also expect that this tiny spec of cyberspace may be useful to those considering a professional-level volunteer placement in development, seekers of information on anything Cambodian, and any others with a sense for a little adventure.
All opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not in any way represent the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Cuso International, Voluntary Service Overseas, the Working Group for Partnerships in Decentralisation, or any other organisation.