Since a couple of days, we're staying in Siem Reap. It's a nice little town, which is going through rapid tourism boom. Everywhere, just an in Sihanoukville, hotels pop out of the ground. The usual techniques to attract the attention of passing tourists are also applied here: yelling at you from a distance "Mister-wan-collldrink?!" or continuously repeating the offer of "five-for-only-one-dollar".
The biggest boom here is not tourism though, it's the NGO "business". Everyone who ownes a guesthouse or knows a bit of English seems to have their own private initiative to help a family, village or school. Makes sence, because poverty is all around you. Also the big organisations are present; Plan, UNICEF, we've even seen a building of SOS Children's villages (also sponsored by Dutch organisations). We talk a lot about this; what do the people here actually want and which type of aid is most effective?
We have a lot of good examples from practise around us. At the moment we are staying at Baca Villa (www.baca-villa.com) which is also run by a Dutch man named Jan, same as Orchidee guesthouse in Sihanoukville (It's not that we're chauvinist, we just heard this is a nice place). This Jan is supporting the entire Baca family and currently employs twenty-three people - all brother, sisters, nieces and nephews. He has also just set up a school in the countryside, where children can take English lessons. The classes are very popular; the only teacher had some two-hundred students! Many come from surrounding villages.
Tuesday Jan took us to visit a school to which we donated a part of the Nam Jai moneyt to; the Wat Prenn School of the Salariin Kampuchea foundation. Jan knows Saskia, one of the founders and a good friend of mine, and the other that run the foundation, very well. It was busy, because there was a documentary showed of the Tonle lake. Whether the kids understood everything, I strongly doubt. Fortunately they get to visit the `Wildlifecentre` in Siem Reap to study the snakes and other wild creatures from up close; then they'll definately grasp it all!
A lot more to tell; we've seen many pagoda's and still enjoy ourselves here.
More will follow soon.