ODDAR MEANCHEY Province - Heavy rainfall and flooding along the Mekong River killed 168 people this year and damaged hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice and other crops across the country.
But this year, groups of former students who had studied abroad decided to raise funds for charity.
They have so far raised some $30,000 in flood relief.
For flood victims like 73-year-old farmer Kroch Sann, in Oddary Meanchey provinces Cheung Tean village, that meant a little help after flooding destroyed his rice paddy.
“This was the level of water, as you can see,” he said in a recent interview, pointing to his doorstep, a meter off the ground. “My rice field was in complete ruin this year.”
The village was one of the hardest hit in the province, in terms of damage, though there were no reported deaths here.
Krouch Prey, a neighbor, said nearly all her rice and cassava were were wiped out by the flood. Cattle have no food, and the people are sick, she said.
In this village and others in the commune, people have been lucky. They had aid delivered five times this year since the floodwaters receded. That has included aid from five alumni associations—those of the US, UK, Australia and Japan.
“The aid they have received so far is still small, compared to the large scale of the flood impact,” said Seang Sopagna, president of Australian Alumni Association of Cambodia. “So we have brought all this to add on to what they are lacking.”
Aid for Cheung Tean village came from the $30,000 the alumni groups jointing raised at a charity event earlier this month. The fundraising effort marked the first time these groups had worked together for charity.
Chhorn Bunhorn, a representative of Cambodian Australian Network of Students, said some students who were born in Australia wanted to contribute “to show that they are also Khmer.”
“So when the chance came to help victims, we contributed what we could,” he said.
The aid bought each family in need 50-kilogram bags of rice, boxes of instant noodles, fish sauce, soap and a water filter.
“We wanted to create a culture of helping between and among Khmer and Khmer,” said Tep Kunthea, vice president of the British Alumni Association of Cambodia.
After the aid was distributed in the village, farmers thanked the students and returned home with their goods. Some families did complain, however, saying they were not added to the lists of the needy, even though they are poor.
Sean Sophanha said the students planned the best they could, bringing more care packages than they had names for. And to make sure the aid was delivered to the right people, alumni went door to door, through the village, giving aid where the flood had once been.