Those who know me well will be aware that I love jumping and diving off things into water. Holidays in France were full of this type of action, and I was back at it again on a recent visit to the Yeak Loam lake in the Northeastern province of Ratanakiri. (Keen readers will remember that this is where we took a holiday in November last year, and where Gilly was recently in August.)
The lake is of huge importance to the indigenous Tampoon tribespeople who live in the villages around its perimeter. They hold various ceremonies at the lake and its spirits are featured in many of the stories within their belief system. A VSO volunteer in Ratanakiri called Tania is working with these communities to protect the area against aggressive attempts to deforest the land and initiate construction projects. It really is a magical place and might be my favourite spot in all of Cambodia that I've seen so far. Later in this post you can meet some of the Tampoon people, but first some more jumping and diving...
many years of practise.
Livelihoods Sector Workshop, taking to the lake in our lunch breaks. This was an opportunity for volunteers across Cambodia to get together, share experiences and learn from each other.
I led a session (see above) called 'Walk the Line' which explored the tension between helping to develop skills among local staff and actually causing harm by performing work that should be done by those we are working with. Our objective is always to leave our organisations stronger than when we arrived, and not leaving holes in areas of responsibility that we have deliberately or inadvertently taken on during our time here. It's a thin line and we had some great discussions. (And yes, we did have some Johnny Cash playing to accompany parts of the session.)
I'll soon be posting a bit more about what I'm doing in my placement and how I am helping to develop new skills among the team that I'm working with at CRDT. But now back to Ratanakiri.
All in all it was an educational and fun experience. I love the lake and its surroundings and truly hope that the Tampoon people can maintain its beauty and role in their lives. I also hope that they see more of the benefits of tourism in the area and that they are involved more in political decision making that affects them and their lives.
Considering the role of development work in the context of indigenous and tribal people is a complex subject and this picture book gave me real food for thought when I read it again after visiting the Tampoon. Some of the ideas can be more widely applied when thinking about whose agenda is being served by our efforts to 'develop' some parts of the world.