February 2014


Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics has been over for almost a week now and we miss them.
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It is clearly not that we are or aspire to be athletes or have a major fascination with sports in general. What the Olympics provide for us is a connection to home and our home country. Astro, our cable provider had two channels dedicated to the games which allowed for pretty decent coverage and we spent as much time as we could afford glued to the TV.

The sportsmanship of our fellow Canadians and of course the medals they that won, gave us a great sense of pride in our country and lets face it, a fair bit of homesickness. What reminds you more of friends and family that a good rousing hockey game?
We even had the opportunity to join with about thirty five other Canadian expats at a bar to watch the Men’s gold medal game. It was awesome but I did feel a little sorry for the small contingent of Sweden fans in the audience.

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Much effort has gone into the pilot Wholistic Community Development pilot project in Siem Reap province in Cambodia and the goal is that the impact is not only well documented but back up by academic research. This past May a group of medical students from Singapore did the first phase of the research with a study on the impact of the initial Moral Values training on the ngo staff and community leadership. They also began a baselines survey in two target areas.

This past weekend, I was in Siem Reap with a Singaporean researcher to organize and trainer for a follow-up survey of about 120 homes. The community leaders are very keen to get the work done and have an amazing knowledge of their own communities. We had a good time training five very capable teachers in the content, process and skills needed to carry out confidential interviews.

As it is very difficult to monitor and document behavior change, the students will use alcohol consumption and the resulting issues such as family violence and unsafe sexual activities as proxy indicators of change. Alcohol is a major issue for these communities, and accounts for a significant financial burden not only in terms of money spent on booze but also in decreased productivity, school dropouts, ill health and relational problems. With the data collected in these surveys, Singaporean medical students will return in May to work with the community leaders to design and implement a community wide alcohol reduction program.

We stopped by a very small village alcohol supplier, which didn’t look like much from the street but was shockingly well stocked.
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On Sunday I braved the roads and made the six and half hour bus trip to Phnom Penh. When your Khmer friends tell you that the road is under construction they mean it: all 350 km of it. I had three great days in the TWR Cambodia office working with the staff on a report that was needed by the end of the month. It was fun to connect with them again and get caught up with their lives. I benefitted from a farewell for one of the staff for which the guys graciously did a fabulous BBQ.

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