How do you overcome poverty amongst the billion poorest people on earth, countries with often apocalyptic recent events or at risk of facing them now? Where the injustice of extreme poverty demands external intervention yet so little evidence of its success exists that some people question whether international aid is not just ineffective, but contributes to poverty.
At Grow Movement we enhance the capacity of local entrepreneurs to lead their countries out of poverty and enable people everywhere to act through remote volunteering: Modern communications enable a skilled person anywhere to volunteer their time to overcome poverty and see the results for themselves.
One of those volunteers is Philippe Pauly, a former fund manager in Paris, who volunteered remotely with Allen Alebako, one of our women entrepreneurs in Uganda. Philippe dedicates his life to overcoming poverty amongst the rural poor in Cambodia and followed his passionate belief in the effectiveness of social enterprise by founding Cambolac. I am lucky enough to serve on Cambolac's social board and visited Cambodia to learn about their work.
Cambodia knows apocalypse: up to 2.2 million people of a population of 8 million died in the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1978. The Khmer Rouge killed anyone with an education, speaking a foreign language or even former urban dwellers judged incapable of agricultural work. While this happened before the vast majority of Cambodians today where born, its legacy lingers in a very basic level of education and a virtual absence of professionals.
Cambolac works in Siem Reap where over 50% of families live on less than a dollar a day, 53% of children are malnourished and just 10% of them finish high school. Yet two million tourists visit this area annually to see the stunning Angkor Wat temples. Very little of the tourist revenues reach the local community.
|A Cambolac black lacquer box|
|Making Cambolac boxes with a water rubbing pond|
|Cambolac founder Philippe Pauly (centre) with Cambodian family and a Cambolac rubbing pond|
Philippe is investigating enhancing the social impact further by outsourcing part of the production process to the local villages. This would enable people who cannot travel to the workshop to have work (either by virtue of the cost or women for example who cannot leave their children to go to work). Cambolac would supply boxes to the villages for the people to sandpaper and pay a fee for each box so that people can work at their own pace and around their other commitments. Cambolac has constructed one rubbing pond in a local village to pilot this concept and so far appears very promising at enabling more people to access work.
I don't know the answer to the international aid dilemma. But I do know from working with Cambolac and Grow Movement that active, positive and effective steps exist to serve the people in these communities.
|Cambolac social board member and Grow Movement founder Chris Coghlan at Angkor Wat, Cambodia|