Change in Cambodia
by By DR. BILL GEORGE Chairman, Board of Directors People for Care and Learning
May 02, 2013 | 1876 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sister City 5-2
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Submitted Photo THOUSANDS OF CAMBODIAN children are fed monthly through the work of People for Care and Learning which is training Cambodians to help themselves by “Inspiring Hope ... Empowering Potential,” which is a PCL theme in the Southeast Asian country.
(Editor’s Note: This is the final in a three-part series written by Dr. Bill George, chairman of the board of directors for People for Care and Learning. Submitted to the Cleveland Daily Banner, the series familiarizes Cleveland area residents with the community’s new Sister City, Phnom Penh, and the work of PCL which made this relationship possible).

A tourist arriving in Cambodia on a search for People for Care and Learning (PCL) personnel would find them in several places doing many things — from running orphanages, to teaching English, to drilling wells, to building medical clinics, to teaching children, and more.

PCL was born on the field in Cambodia when Bob Pace, the founder (now retired), learned of an elderly gentleman who had established an orphanage that was going to have to close because of his ill health. Bob told him the new organization, PCL, would take care of the children, and that began what is now a 12-year track record of service to people who need help.

The formal mission statement for People for Care and Learning identifies it as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization that cares for the poor by combining training with opportunities that give the poor a working chance toward a brighter future.

In Cambodia, the one orphanage has now become two — one in Phnom Penh and another in the country’s third largest city, Siem Reap. Since Siem Reap is also the nation’s tourist center, welcoming more than 2 million visitors a year, it was the logical place to begin a coffee house/restaurant where PCL trains young Cambodians to operate a business, preparing them for jobs in the food service and tourist industry. Common Grounds, the name of the shop, has earned its way into Lonely Planet, the well-known travel guide. Incidentally, it also makes money, which is plowed back into PCL endeavors.

PCL has adopted a holistic, systematic approach to eradicating the cycle of poverty by focusing on several areas:

n Education: English language instruction is offered at several centers around the country. Because Cambodia is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, jobs are available for those who are fluent in English. Further, business opportunities involving international trade and communication require the language ability.

n Job Training: The PCL Management Institute in Phnom Penh is a junior college that provides instruction in management techniques, computer usage and other skills. Indigent students who would otherwise not be able to attend the university are given scholarships for study in the two-year school.

n Housing: For the poor of Cambodia, housing is a major challenge. Many live in houses of woven-mat sides and palm-thatch roofs which do not weather well. In urban areas, homes are often shanty-type dwellings made of whatever material is at hand. One of PCL’s major projects is the construction of small houses built on a United Nations design commonly used in such areas. The “Build a City” program will offer some 1,500 homes for former slum-dwellers in a Phnom Penh suburb.

n Child Care: The original PCL orphanage in Siem Reap, now named the Bob and Clara Pace Home, cares for 38 children, and the newer home in Phnom Penh is home to about 20. The children attend public school in the morning and are tutored in the afternoon by U.S. volunteers who work at the orphanages. Besides the resident children, PCL provides meals to several hundred others who are undernourished. More than 6,000 are fed monthly.

n Medical Care: People for Care and Learning has assisted in the building and furnishing of medical clinics in rural areas where care is lacking. More than 800 patients visit these small clinics in a typical month.

n Clean Water: In areas not served by municipal sources of clean water, PCL has drilled wells or provided filtration systems. Polluted water brings disease and sickness, especially to children, and the clean water can mean the difference between life and death.

n Agriculture: The typical farmer raises two rice crops a year, and does not take advantage of other planting opportunities. A demonstration farm led by PCL personnel shows growers how they can use border areas for fruit trees, unused land for vegetables, ponds for harvesting fish, as well as how they can add chickens and hogs to their income-producing efforts.

n Woodcarving: Some 130,000 amputees live in Cambodia, the result of several million land mines that were emplaced in the country during its various wars, including perhaps a million that were put there by Americans during the Vietnam War when Vietnamese soldiers would flee into Cambodia for safety. Unable to hold a regular job, many of these amputees secured money only by begging. A woodcarving initiative, founded by PCL personnel, has taught them a skill and helps them regain their dignity and earn an income.

Looking for PCL personnel? They can be found where people need to have their hope inspired and their potential empowered.