When staff from Mission Alliance, a Christian nonprofit based in Norway, looked into starting a project in Cambodia in 2006, their plan was to find the best way to provide programs to people struggling with poverty. They met Navy Chann, the Cambodia consultant for World Renew at that time, and quickly realized there was potential for doing ministry together in a new way that would maximize impact and reduce expenses.
“They felt that our mission, vision, values, and approach were so much in line with theirs that it would make more sense to partner with World Renew Cambodia than to open their own office,” explained Kathleen Lauder, World Renew’s Cambodia consultant since 2013.
Now, more than a decade and $4.2 million in support later, the project is complete and there is much to celebrate.
Initially, Mission Alliance committed to fund a two-year pilot project with World Renew. After seeing the success of the first two years, the project was extended to a five-year project, which was extended again to a second five-year project.
“We’re so grateful for the faithful and generous support of Mission Alliance for our work in Cambodia,” said Lauder. “It gave us a steady foundation from which to do our work and enabled us to really invest in communities and community partners for the long term.”
With the support of Mission Alliance, World Renew identified three community organizations with which it would partner to carry out ministry. This eventually became six nongovernment organization (NGO) partnerships and eight local church partnerships. In keeping with World Renew’s approach of “organizational capacity building,” much of the Cambodian project focused on developing the skills of the local partner churches and organizations so that they could continue to carry out ministry even after World Renew leaves.
At the beginning of the pilot project, the local partners struggled and required close supervision from World Renew. Over time, though, as partners increased their skills and capacities, World Renew took a step back so that the partners could operate more independently.
“World Renew held our hand to walk us through developing our organization,” explained Sarath Rath, the director of OREDA (Occupation of Rural Economic Development and Agriculture), one of the three main partners. Rath added, “Then, from 2014 on, World Renew let us walk by ourselves. I’m glad they walked with us at first. We had someone to talk to, to consult and discuss with. We never felt alone.”
All together, the partnership of Mission Alliance funding, World Renew oversight, and NGO and local church programming was able to reach 91 communities in four provinces. With additional support from Mission Alliance and TearFund UK, World Renew and its church partners were also able to reach an additional 36 communities. In each of these communities, people were able to address a host of issues, including livelihoods, food security, health, and good governance.
Consider the change that took place in Kantort Prong, a village in Svay Rieng province of Cambodia:
“At first, health was our problem; health is very important,” explained Mr. Sao Khan, a resident of the village. In response to this need, the community received training in clean water practices, hygiene, and sanitation.
“After becoming healthy, what did we need? Education! Now we have a community-based kindergarten that can build strong roots for all children in the village. If the kids can join school when they’re young, they will be strong in education in the future,” Khan added.
Kantort Prong village decided next to tackle livelihoods. Through World Renew’s local partner, they received training in growing vegetables and raising livestock.
“We now had healthy bodies, education gains, and growing livelihoods,” said Khan. “What more did we need? Peace! Domestic-violence and gender training helped all the villagers live a more peaceful life,” resolving arguments and diminishing fighting in families, he said, “which used to bother everyone’s emotions so much. But now we feel happier as we’ve seen how things have changed positively — not only within my family but for my people in the whole village.”
Mr. Khan’s account is similar to those of all 127 communities involved in the extended project.. The work in a village typically began by consulting with community members to identify their needs. Once a need was identified, World Renew and its partners provided training and assisted the community in taking action. Each new development initiative also involved an investment from the community itself.
In the area of health, for example, community members might be asked to contribute time or part of the costs to construct latrines. In this way, communities had ownership of the new initiatives and also grew in confidence. They grew to realize that they had the skills and resources they needed to tackle the challenges they faced.
“Previously, citizens couldn’t afford to spend money on toilets,” said a leader from Prey Pon village in Prey Veng province. He added that World Renew’s partner, Light New of Unity (LNU), helped to provide some money toward building the first latrines while also asking people to contribute a portion of the costs.
As communities became more involved in contributing their own resources, and as they witnessed the benefits of having a latrine, LNU began contributing less and community members paid more.
“Now I can say that at least 90 percent of families have a toilet,” said the community leader.
Once one hurdle was overcome, each community would be challenged to identify and tackle another. Sometimes this might include nudging from the partner to consider an issue that the community hadn’t thought about. A prime example of this was the work that World Renew and its partners did to encourage community kindergartens.
“Before [World Renew’s partner] came to our village, young children didn’t attend kindergarten because the only kindergarten available in the district was far from our village. On the other hand, parents didn’t really care about kindergarten education and thought it was useless,” explained Ms. Sok Samean, a kindergarten teacher in Dork Por Village in Prey Veng province.
World Renew’s partner spoke with that community and helped to raise awareness about the importance of early education for children. It was enough to encourage the village to take action.
“Our community contributed money and materials to build the kindergarten, to fix the road leading to the location, and to put fans in the building. I received training to be a kindergarten teacher. Now I am a teacher at the kindergarten, and I know how to teach my students well. Now villagers have changed their mindsets to enroll their children to study in the kindergarten, and they always come to drop off and pick
up their children. They also still contribute materials like books,” she said.
Another side benefit of providing kindergartens was that it freed young mothers from childcare duties and gave them more time for income-generating activities. In fact, women received some of the greatest impacts from this ten-year partnership, reporting that they have experienced improved access to prenatal care, reduced rates of domestic violence, increased opportunities for income generation, and greater respect overall from others in the community.
Altogether, World Renew and its NGO partners have used $4.2 million from Mission Alliance to help 20,463 people in 91 communities over the past 10 years. This included the construction of 2,123 latrines and 18 kindergartens, support for 27 kindergartens, and improving the livelihoods of 4,282 people.
In addition to this specific project, World Renew used additional funding from Mission Alliance and TearFund UK to help 5,087 people in 36 communities over the past 10 years. This included the construction of 712 latrines and the improvement of the livelihoods of 1,105 people.
These are only a few of the statistics. World Renew and its partners also conducted 14 workshops to improve governance for 833 participants, 32 workshops on safe migration with 2,631 participants, 19 alcohol awareness campaigns, and much more.
The project with Mission Alliance and NGO partners was completed on December 31, 2018. Mission Alliance has now opened their own office in Cambodia and is directly supporting many local partners, including one of World Renew’s local partners.
“Mission Alliance originally partnered with World Renew because they liked our way of community organizing for self-reliance,” explained Tom Post, Asia Team Leader for World Renew. “I think they saw our way of working as a way to spend their money while minimizing the risk of doing harm with it. Now, over 10 years later, there are stronger local partners in Cambodia for them to work with. This is due, in part, to the work that we’ve done together for the past decade. Thanks to an investment in building local capacity, Mission Alliance can now find new ways to spend their money at low risk of doing harm.”
World Renew is also using the end of this project as an opportunity to shift its future ministry to fit current needs and a reduced budget in Cambodia.
“We have reduced our staff from 22 to 7 and are transitioning to working with fewer partners,” said Lauder, pointing out that their commitment to communities has not changed.
“Instead of transitioning out of communities, we are moving our focus up from the community level to the commune [county] level and engaging our communities, along with other communities in the commune, in a Commune Based Organization. This will actually expand the number of participants in our programs while reducing our costs.”
World Renew will build on the leadership that has been developed in its partners and will work to coordinate that more regionally. World Renew also plans to work on a market-based approach that will encourage agricultural co-ops and producer groups. Another ongoing area of focus will be to empower youth as agents of change.
“We already have a strong program with youth. Currently we have 24 youth clubs in the communities where we have worked. We are partnering them with some urban schools in Phnom Penh so that the Phnom Penh youth can learn about rural communities and poverty, and the community youth can learn critical thinking and technical skills,” said Lauder.
World Renew’s ministry will also be strengthened by its ongoing relationship with Resonate Global Mission.
“There have been really helpful contributions from the people of Resonate in Cambodia,” explained Post. “They have led staff spiritual retreats, counseled staff, led staff devotions, surveyed the situation to identify possibilities of local congregations, and enriched World Renew staff trainings. We look forward to this continued partnership.”
As World Renew begins its new chapter of work in Cambodia, it asks for your ongoing prayers and support.
“As I retire from World Renew, I can look back and be proud of the great work that God has accomplished in Cambodia through World Renew, with the generous support of Mission Alliance, over the past 10 years,” said Lauder, who plans to retire this year but will continue her ministry in Cambodia by volunteering to bring groups from North America to Cambodia to visit World Renew projects.
“I am excited to see how God will continue this work as World Renew scales up and takes a more market-driven approach to development. I am delighted that I will continue to work with World Renew Cambodia in my retirement to bring more teams from the CRCNA to see the wonders of Cambodia, and to experience how God is working through World Renew to build his Kingdom in poor, rural communities in Cambodia.”