in Cambodia? Check out our videolog as to why Cambodia made one of the biggest impressions on us thus far…
It was here in Cambodia that we met an extraordinary one-of-a-kind activist: a man with a passion for helping lesbians. Coming from a family of 10 sisters, Super”Lezbro” Srun Srorn understood first-hand the struggles of women. But as he started doing social work amongst women, Srorn realized there was a group that was even worse off: lesbians who were forced into marriages with men. Srorn works hard to organize support groups for lesbians, connecting over 700 women across various provinces in Cambodia, and he represented Cambodia at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this spring on LGBT needs, highlighting lesbian community concerns.
Srun connected us to Ya, one of the women who benefitted from his outreach program. Over some beers, Ya told us about the the positive changes happening in her generation. She took us to the newly established LGBT center in Siam Reap, Dragonfly, complete with a counseling center, a library and HIV testing. In the nine months that Dragonfly has opened, they already have had 400 visitors walk through their doors.
Much of the resources to support Cambodian LGBT organizations have come from foreign NGOs. While many criticize these foreign aid groups for wastefulness and lack of efficiency (including spending their money on Lexus SUVs for their personnel), they are nonetheless having some positive impact for local people.
I feel a similar conundrum as a tourist. Cambodia offers some wonderful restaurants, accommodations, and tourist experiences that Lisa and I fully indulged in (we loved the food so much we even took a cooking class) – but were we being wasteful? Should we have given the money to one of the aid organizations instead? Or that one-legged man trying to selling us some fake books? Or that child carrying his little sister on his back and begging on the street corner?
I don’t know what the answer is. But I hope that the little we do do – playing with the orphans for an afternoon, visiting with the local staff of an LGBT center, spending money at local businesses – ends up having some positive impact.
Cambodia may be a country of great need, but it is also a country where you can see many people working hard to make things better. And we hope that as Cambodia strives to meet the basic needs of its people and raise standards of living, it will not forget about giving its people the freedom to choose how they live their lives and who they love.