News / Asia

Cambodian School Educates New Generation of Social Workers

FILE - Social workers and police say Cambodia is fast gaining reputation as a haven for child sex, with boys and girls, driven into the business by their poverty-stricken parents and guardians.FILE - Social workers and police say Cambodia is fast gaining reputation as a haven for child sex, with boys and girls, driven into the business by their poverty-stricken parents and guardians.
x
FILE - Social workers and police say Cambodia is fast gaining reputation as a haven for child sex, with boys and girls, driven into the business by their poverty-stricken parents and guardians.
FILE - Social workers and police say Cambodia is fast gaining reputation as a haven for child sex, with boys and girls, driven into the business by their poverty-stricken parents and guardians.
Irwin Loy
Cambodia has some 3,000 registered non-profit groups. Some work on highly sensitive issues such as violence against women and human trafficking. But there are few Cambodians formally trained for such work. That is now changing with the country’s first university-level degree program for social workers.
 
When Yoeung Kimheng was growing up in a rural community outside Phnom Penh, he did not have to look far from home to see troubling social problems. But he also saw few people who were in a position to help.
 
“Near my village, it’s a very poor community. I think it’s a very hard situation. Because a lot of children drop out, and use alcohol, and some drugs. I never saw social workers or others to help them. I never saw,” Kimheng said.
 
New university program

Now, thanks to an emerging university program, Kimheng himself may soon be equipped to help. He has finished a four-year program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Department of Social Work (RUPP). Kimheng’s class is set to graduate later this year-just the second graduating class for the department.
 
He will join people like Heng Puthika in the workforce. The 23-year-old was part of the department’s first graduating class last year. Now, he has found a job at Transitions Global, a non-government group that works with survivors of human trafficking.
 
“I do family assessments, go to the community to meet with the family to assess what they are facing at the moment, the family need and family issues," Puthika stated. "And try to find out what are the available resources in the community in order to link all of the resource to the family. I try to work with the family in order to help them.”
 
It is the kind of work that’s intensely important in a country rebuilding after years of conflict.
 
Outreach

Social workers often interact with some of the country’s most vulnerable people, many of whom have suffered emotional trauma. Yet, until the RUPP department started in 2008, there was no degree-level program in Cambodia for training social workers.
 
Traditionally outreach groups relied on foreign experts or largely untrained local staff who learned on the job.
 
“You can see that after U.N. times, there’s a lot of aid dependency coming to Cambodia. There’s a lot of foreigners, they call experts, coming to help support Cambodia as well. Those who are experts are not Cambodian themselves," said Ung Kimkanika, a faculty member in the department. "So I think to have the Cambodian-trained social workers be our own social workers by ourselves is very important. Because the situation is Cambodian and only Cambodian or Khmer people would understand the situation well.”
 
That’s where the department comes in. In partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, Cambodian students, including Kimkanika, were sent to the United States to study and earn Master’s degrees.
 
Now, they’ve come back and they form the backbone of the teaching staff at RUPP’s social work department.
 
Social work as a profession is often poorly understood in Cambodia. Early on, even some of today’s graduates were unsure what social work was.
 
Kim Chanravey remembers her first few days as a university student. “I thought that social work … can help people by giving money or presents to the poor people. Charity. But when I start studying social work, it’s different,” she said.
 
She learned quickly. Chanravey was part of the first graduating class last year, and now she works with Hagar International, which helps abused women and girls.
“Charity means giving presents directly to the people. But social work, no. Social work tries to find the way, find the choice for the people to try to decide themselves, to do anything by themselves,” she added.
 
Her manager at Hagar, Wei Wang, said the benefits of four years of university education is evident in the RUPP grads her organization has hired.  “I think that with a four-year degree behind you, you have more of the theoretical foundation. You have a better understanding of how to look at things holistically and assess things from a community strength-based approach," Wang said. "Whereas if you have to train on the job, a lot of time it’s fairly haphazard because you’re trying to get somebody to do something fairly difficult but you only have two trainings, rather than four years of solid foundation.”
 
RUPP’s social work program will likely become more crucial in the coming months. A United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal is nearing the end of one portion of a case against former Khmer Rouge leaders. Faculty member Ung Kimkanika says the eventual verdict from the court could stir up long-buried memories among traumatized survivors of the regime.
 
But for now, back at the university, a new class of social work students is getting set to begin its first year of studies. Their expected graduation: 2017.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid