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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid