“If you want to go in the darkness, you have to be the light.”
Simon Brown (age almost 3)

There is no doubt that Cambodia is a country of darkness.  You only have to walk by the seedy snooker halls and darkened Karaoke parlours or see the beautiful young girls all dressed up and waiting in front of the restaurants to get a glimpse of just how dark it is. This is a darkness we long to go into and we long to be the light.

There are probably very few who have worked harder to change this reality then Dr. Vathiny.  As Executive Director of the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) she has created an organization that reaches into the heart of villages through a network of volunteers where this is often the only health care available.  Their network of Peer Educators among the youth, factory workers, fishermen and even sex workers are highly regarded by the people they teach.

The lessons and resources they have created are excellent but even they realize that the behavioural change they are looking for is not happening and that people are deeply in need of moral and spiritual help that RHAC can’t provide.  This week our consultation group will share with them twenty six lessons and a teaching strategy aimed at encouraging oral learners to explore their own understanding and make good life decisions.  Our hope is that the leadership of this organization will understand how the lack of moral values and spiritual darkness negatively impacts the physical health of Cambodians and the health of the society in general.

We spent most of the morning laying the ground work for the week with discussions on the difference between relief and development and the need for a holistic approach to good health and the role the volunteer can play in a community.  After lunch we really began talking about moral values and examining a number of positive character traits and how they are developed.

The makeup of the group turned out to be a little different than we anticipated in that is was not mandatory attendance.  Consequently it was a group of people who were already convinced that it is absolutely essential that these changes need to be made.  All recognized pretty quickly that the change needs to start in their own hearts and that it is a bit frightening to know that they need to be role models and mentors. It is a huge responsibility to take on this challenge, but they seem to be ready to go and are just anxious to learn how to do this in Cambodia. We’ve had lots of good open discussions and I am looking forward to day two.