About six months ago I started working at Oxfam Australia as a media coordinator and one of my main responsibilities, among many other things, has been to write and implement a blogging strategy. The reasoning behind that is Oxfam wanted to engage with the wonderfully diverse and largely philanthropic community of bloggers. We have many stories to share and bloggers have a truly unique voice in the media landscape, so it’s the perfect match. I invited a group of wonderful bloggers to Melbourne for a full day workshop where they met Oxfam staff, our executives and we shared our hopes for fighting poverty and injustice around the world.
I established our Oxfam Australia Blogging Community Facebook group which is open to all bloggers who have a genuine interest in finding out more about the work we do and are keen to share our initiatives with their awesome readers.
And I approached blogging expert (the brains behind the Secret Bloggers’ Business) and editor of Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily – Kate McKibbin to ask her to become our Blogging Ambassador. As part of her role, she agreed to travel to Cambodia with myself and a member of our advocacy team Daisy Gardener. Oxfam wanted to provide Kate a deeper understanding of where the clothes her readers’ buy come from, who makes those clothes, what challenges face them and how Oxfam is driving change in the area of labour rights and campaigning for a living wage. Kate was keen to find out more. And that is how we found ourselves in Phnom Penh.
If you’ve never been to Phnom Penh imagine lots of traffic – cars, scooters piled with up to five people on each vehicle, food carts, tuk tuks, pushbikes, trucks and pedestrians all navigating the busy streets. It’s hot, it’s humid and in the rainy season – it buckets down. The streets flow with dirty water, the traffic slows and sometimes stops altogether until the rain passes and the sight of people draped with brightly coloured plastic ponchos is all too common. When it is morning and early afternoon the food carts come out. The smell of meat cooking over coals and the bustle of daily life is brightly textured against the backdrop of often dirt and rubbish covered streets. In the retail and more up-market areas, glitzy high-rise buildings sparkle with reflective windows and the foot paths (yes, in many parts of Phnom Penh there are foot paths) are swept clean and, as is common throughout Cambodia, shoes are left at the front doors as bare feet indoors is preferred.
There is a very distinct divide between the wealthy and the poor. Although, all have mobile phones and many have a scooter. Smiles are free and given with ease.
The country has a very rich and at times violent history. You will meet many people who lost loved ones during the Pol Pot era. This is unsurprising as over one million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Its impact on the country is far reaching.
Cambodia is a diverse country and one I was lucky enough to explore from a range of viewpoints. Our trip was eye opening, distressing and at times disheartening. Mostly though, it left me with a sense of hope, that change is possible and the people of Cambodia, at times with help from NGOs like Oxfam and many others, are driving that change. The people of Cambodia are resilient and hopeful.
There are so many stories to tell.
Over the next couple of weeks – I’ll write more about the trip. I hope you’ll relive this journey with Kate and I.
For more information about the work Oxfam Australia is doing in the area of labour rights go to: https://www.oxfam.org.au/whos-making-your-clothes/