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Not Enough Cambodians Pitching In for Development: Volunteers

Diep Sovannaroth, left, a program assistant for UN Volunteers, and Chhuon Thavrith, right, a former volunteer at UN Volunteers who now works for UNDP, were our guests on 'Hello VOA' on Monday.

If more Cambodians do not start pitching in and volunteering, the country risks missing key development goals in coming years, a youth advocate said Monday.

Cambodia is trying to meet a series of UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but it is lagging behind in key sectors. And while there are a number of foreign volunteers working in the country, there is not enough local help, Diep Sovannaroth, a program assistant for UN Volunteers, told “Hello VOA.”

“Only when we Cambodians ourselves contribute to the solutions to existing challenges or problems will the country develop,” she said. “So volunteerism plays a very important role here.”

Cambodia marked the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers last week, as development officials called on more volunteer activities to push the country towards its 2015 goals.

“You can be a part-time volunteer with an organization wherever you see a problem and think you can offer a hand to help fix it,” Diep Sovannaroth said. “Then you become part of the solution.”

Visal, a “Hello VOA” caller from Kampong Cham province, said that the idea of volunteering is not new to Cambodians, but few seem eager to take on volunteer work. And there is little encouragement from the government.

“Apart from youth community participation, why doesn’t the government encourage them to voluntarily engage in its work too?” Visal asked.

Sarom, a caller from Phnom Penh, said volunteer work should be encouraged at universities “across the country.”

Chhuon Thavrith, a former volunteer at UN Volunteers who now works for UNDP, who was also a guest on Monday, said volunteer work does more than develop the country; it helps boost personal development as well.

“Being a volunteer gives us self-worth when we sacrifice for the cause of development and peace in the country,” said Chhuon Thavrith, who also volunteered recently in the vote to split the new country of South Sudan from Sudan. “As workers, we are proud to have contributed to building history and…to gain experience for future jobs.”