Bishop John Arnold, Bishop-elect of Salford, visited Cambodia at the end of last month in his role as Chairman of CAFOD – the Church’s agency for overseas aid and development. One of the key aims of the visit was to observe how CAFOD’s partners are working to improve the lives of those affected by poverty.
During his week in the country, Bishop John visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap near the Thailand border – the latter noted for having ‘the highest average wealth of Cambodian cities but its provincial inhabitants are the poorest.’ He met with a variety of delegates including Michelle Broadbent, the British Deputy Ambassador to Cambodia, Bishop Olivier, the Apostolic Vicar for Phnom Penh and His Excellency Say Sam Al, the Minister for the Environment.
He also met with a number of CAFOD partners, organisations and individuals such as the Jesuit Refugee Service and its Centre for Reflection and Development Partnership in Action (DPA).
Bishop John is still serving as an auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese as Westminster and, as such, his daily diary can be read on the diocesan website. In his reflections, Bishop John comments on the wealth divide evident in some of Cambodia’s biggest cities and on the recent turbulent history of the country, principally the memory of Pol Pot’s oppressive regime in the 1970s.
He bore witness to a country which is recovering from these dark days and seeing an impressively large growth rate per annum which still leaves many below the poverty line. This is where the work of CAFOD and its partners has become so important in helping people work towards a better quality of life for themselves and their communities in modern Cambodia.
Bishop John witnessed first-hand one of these instances of hope when he met a group of women who have bought some land with the help of CAFOD and have been taught intensive farming methods. They are now able to grow crops of vegetables which are available three to four times a year.
As Bishop John notes, “They make their own compost and insecticide and the goods produced are traded in local markets. One woman in the group has made $160 for herself and her family this year – a princely sum in Cambodia. Her husband’s pay is subsistence level so this extra cash makes a world of difference.”
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