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Cambodia: Volunteers tackle older people's isolation

06 Feb 2013

Bun speaking to a homecare volunteer about her experiences.I visited Cambodia as a HelpAge volunteer and was lucky to see HelpAge field projects in late January. Several projects are happening in Cambodia at the moment, including work on livelihoods, food security and healthcare.

Those I visited focused on healthcare and home care. Both healthcare and home care activities have been operating successfully in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces. They cover 61 villages in the Battambang area and 21 villages in Banteay Meanchey.

Older people receive basic healthcare and home visits

For healthcare, every month or so older people receive basic medicine, basic health information, help to do physical exercise, as well as home visits to those who are bedridden. The home care project is more targeted, covering 236 volunteers in both provinces and is coordinated by an older people's association, which is made up of village older people.

Each older people's association has between 100 and 150 members. These members then nominate older people who are frequently ill, have no relatives or live alone, to be part of the home care project.

Committed people who live close to older people in need then volunteer to help. This proximity helps to overcome older people's isolation and can build close community relationships. Volunteers undertake basic household chores, cook, or accompany older people to the temple or health centre. Though volunteers normally visit older people's houses once a week, as they live near, visits can be a lot more frequent.

Helping older people get their lives back

I also went to a project in Banteay Meanchey province and visited an older man who is almost 80. His children have gone to the Thai border to earn money. He lives alone and has arthritis. This is why the older people's association selected him to receive home care.

I visited several other older people's houses, all of whom are part of the home care project. I spoke to a 89-year-old woman who lost her husband and also has arthritis. Her volunteer helps her to manage her pain and she is slowly getting her life back. She now has a small kitchen garden.

Volunteers and older people extremely happy

A project initiation meeting with community leaders in Banteay Meanchey.HelpAge's work in Cambodia has been a great success, with both the volunteers and older people involved extremely happy. Whatever challenges the volunteers and older people faced have been dealt with by the community.

When I arrived in Banteay Meanchey, there was a meeting for village leaders, older people's association members and HelpAge staff. After attending the meeting, I could see that they were all very committed to addressing the issues older people face. What I witnessed was just a small part of the work, but it was impressive.

After my visit, I was told that the Cambodian Government had selected this home care service model as a governmental plan. I realise that a small movement can influence the big picture.

Find out more about HelpAge's work in Cambodia.

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MinJun Cho
Country: South Korea

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.