Alleviate Poverty with Community Development

My Approach to Community Development

During my extensive travels through SE Asia I became very sympathetic to the extreme poverty that existed there. Many underprivileged communities are at a severe disadvantage and this negative spiral has become self reinforcing.

As a result, I decided to do what I could to provide some basic necessities. To help level the playing field, I volunteered to provide funding for several significant community development projects in Cambodia, Laos and also Honduras.

In total, I ended up disbursing 30% of my net worth to fund these projects. Primarily, the money was used to fund several types of community development projects. This included the construction of new schools, scholarship programs, environmental conservation and community health care.

Overall, thousands of children, families and their communities will benefit for many years to come.

Community Development In Prey Chas, Cambodia

Prey Chas, Cambodia is the location of a new school project that I funded. This small rural community depends on fishing as their sole means of subsistence.

Essentially, Prey Chas is a floating village located on the shores of a Tonle Sap tributary in Battambang Province. Tonle Sap is a large freshwater lake located in west central Cambodia and access to the community is only possible by boat.

Community Development Tonle Sap

The subsistence lifestyle is very challenging for communities surrounding Tonle Sap.

The local economy depends on the fickle nature of Tonle Sap. Additionally, Cambodia is still in shambles because of the destruction and instability perpetuated by the Vietnam War.

The immediate challenges facing the community include insufficient funding for much needed community development such as schools, healthcare and infrastructure.

At the school opening ceremony I was presented with the “Economic Medal of Honor” by the governor of Battambang Province.

Cambodia Community Development project

Water levels on the lake and its tributaries experience extreme seasonal fluctuations throughout the year. As a result, all the buildings in Prey Chas Cambodia must be able to stay above the water line of Tonle Sap.

Community Development in Cambodia

The class president is addressing those attending the opening ceremony with the new school in the background.

Cambodia Community Development Projects

All transportation to and from Prey Chas is water based. As a result, school attendance will be enhanced by additional transport provided by the government.

Community Development In Nong Tae, Laos

Nong Tae Laos Community Development Project

The preexisting school building was unstable with inadequate facilities and a dirt floor.

The neighboring country of Laos faces many of the same economic challenges as Cambodia. I also wanted to assist with new community development projects in Laos.

Fortunately, I discovered a new project that was located in a region I had previously traveled through.

The project featured below was located in a rural village called Nong Tae in Champasak Province. I had the opportunity to co-funded this project 50/50 with a corporation from Thailand.

Nong Tae Community Development Project

The Nong Tae community development project was very large. There were two new school buildings constructed. As a result, this photo is half of the school project, with an identical school building adjoining it to the left (outside of the photo).

Community Development Project in Laos

This is a photo of the portico of school building number two. The woman in the foreground represented the Thai corporation that co-funded this community development project with me. Also, the gentleman in the uniform is one of the school teachers.

Nong Tae Community Development Project

Interior photo of one of the finished classrooms.

School Opening Ceremony – “Baci”

Lao culture is more spiritual than that which exists in present day Cambodia. To celebrate the opening of the new community development project we were presented with what is called a “baci” ceremony, also known as a “sou khuan”.

This type of ceremony has been practiced by the Lao for centuries and it is a means of enhancing the spirit.

Baci Ceremony - Community Development Projects in SE Asia

A baci spiritual ceremony was presented to us by the community.

Community Development In Honduras

Community development principles can be implemented in different forms. Therefore, the money I allocated here would be used to install eco-efficient cooking stoves.

In Honduras, most rural villagers are forced to cook over open fires which is very hazardous for their health and for the environment. The cost to install a more efficient wood burning stove in each home is only about $30 USD.

Honduras Community Development

After installation the amount of wood required to operate the stove is reduced by 70%. As a result, this will significantly lower carbon emissions and also relieve the strain on the forest because less trees are needed for fuel.

Furthermore, the efficiency of the stove is also much higher which produces a multitude of additional benefits that fit the community development definition.

Honduras Community Development

Most essentially, the stove includes an efficient chimney which funnels the smoke out of the cooking area. As a result, the health benefits are immense and this will significantly reduce the respiratory problems the villagers have faced their entire lives.

Honduras Community development

Additional Types of Community Development

I provided supplemental funding for different approaches to community development such as hygiene instruction and scholarship programs.

This included implementation of basic hygiene programs in the local community. Plus, scholarship programs enabled students to attend secondary schools that were not available in their localities. These projects were very significant and they were all successfully completed.

Since these supplementary types of community development were more spread out and the benefits mostly intangible, they would be difficult to include in this post.

As a result, for this post I decided to concentrate on the more tangible community development projects such as the construction of new schools and the Honduras eco-stove project.

Why Sponsor Community Development?

Cambodia's Killing Fields

What Caused Cambodia’s Killing Fields?

In one week even the most disadvantaged US citizen will be presented with more economic opportunity than citizens of developing economies will have in their entire lives.

Additionally, my travels through war torn SE Asia left me awe inspired by the persistence, ingenuity and fortitude of the local communities. I was convinced they would do more with $1 than a US community could do with $1000.

As a result, I do not consider what I gave away to be charity. I have simply created opportunity where none previously existed.

On the other hand, “charity” is what I used to give to the US government which is then used to prop up overextended consumers and the banking institutions that lend them money.

In Summary

  1. Over the years I have paid a lot of money in taxes to the US government. However, second thoughts emerge when the US government (at the behest of voters) allows profligate consumers to put their personal debts on the government books.
  2. After reading about the Vietnam war and traveling extensively through Indochina I began to sympathize with the struggle for independence that occurred there.
  3. I feel compelled to challenge myself and not get too comfortable in life. The best way to accomplish this is to give away something that belongs to you which has substance.
  4. Being very aware beforehand of the financial risks involved, I still want to differentiate myself from what I find most deplorable in life.


Links To Community Development  Projects

Tuol Kruos, Cambodia School Project
Ka Touat, Laos School Project
Nong Tae, Laos School Project
Prey Chas, Cambodia School Project

Supplemental Post

Sustainable Travel and US Economic Policy