Happy People, Happy Parks

KIds play in an MJP backed schoolyard

KIds play in an MJP backed schoolyard

I’ve just finished my latest production, this time it was another short film for the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation. I’ve been here almost 9 years and have seen quite a few NGO projects, some are better than others. What I like about this project is the attention to detail. For instance most school programs entail building a school or paying extra to a teacher to work in remote areas, maybe a few books and pens. Unfortunately the main problem with government schools across much of Asia is the teachers. They simply have no idea how to teach, how to encourage kids to learn.

Computer classes

Computer classes

What MJP have done here, as with the other aspects of the project, is to put a lot of emphasis on training of the staff… and it shows. The kids are clearly enjoying school, no learning parrot fashion from books as in most Asian schools. Ridiculous as it may sound many Asian teachers consider questions from students as questioning their authority.

The schools are well equipped with good libraries and plenty of the $100 laptops. The local people also help to support the schools and farmers provide the foods for daily meals. To the right is a picture of people making fresh soya milk for the children.

Making Soya Milk

Making Soya Milk

The projects aim is to protect the local forests by providing alternatives to locals to using precious forest resources. This includes training in raising various livestocks, new techniques in farming and the introduction of alternative crops. MJP have also repaired roads in the community to help farmers to reach new markets.

The healthcare centre is so important to this community, with the nearest hospital being 70kms away in Battambang. That’s a good 2 hour drive out here and not something the average family can afford to do.

MJP Health Center in Samlaut

MJP Health Center in Samlaut

The centre currently has 8 well trained staff and is equipped for most problems.

Law enforcement is still a vital part of the project and MJP are now close to having the protected area properly demarcated. This will go a long way to stopping the current problems of encroachment. Being one of the most remote and deprived parts of the country, the people of Samlaut really do appreciate what they are getting here and that in turn makes the law enforcement side of things much easier. Local people are reporting others who log or encroach on the protected area. A real school and a proper healthcare centre are worth protecting.

MJP staff and law enforcement team at work

MJP staff and law enforcement team at work

Many projects I’ve seen in Cambodia run for a year or 2 and then fall apart within a few months of the NGO leaving. MJP is looking at this in the long term and I have very high hopes for what they are doing.

Before anyone asks, NO I did not get to meet Brad or Angie!

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About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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