Archives for April 2010

In-Person Trainings for Engineers Without Borders and Others

In an effort to fulfill our mandated role of educating others on the Village Earth Approach to sustainable community-based development, we have recently conducted numerous trainings with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapters from around the country. The two-day, in-person courses focus on a number of areas essential to the successful implementation of projects. 

In order to create successful projects, we must ask ourselves, “What is it about a project that makes it successful and sustainable? What structural, social, or even psychological barriers inhibit or prevent individuals and groups from getting involved and working together for change?” In this training we focus on a model for how EWB chapters can fit into the overall process of community change, focusing on the relationship between local partner organizations, EWB Chapter organizations and communities. We explore the concept of appropriate technology as both the “hard” physical technologies, but also the “soft” social-organizational technology that ensures equitable distribution and long-term sustainability. This training draws on the theories and methods of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose work has guided some of the most successful development and education programs around the globe, including the Orangi Pilot Project in Bangladesh, the NAAM movement in Burkina Faso and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, among others.

These courses have been very well-received thus far. One student told us, “To put it mildly, this course has changed the way I view myself in the world. I have no doubt that it will affect how I conduct myself as a member of a team and as a leader. I am especially interested to see how it affects my interactions with my existing social groups of work, family, school and friends.”

So far, UC Santa Barbara, University of Illionois Champaign-Urbana, Rutgers University, EWB Northeast Regional Chapters, Colorado Springs Professional EWB Chapter, Princeton, Hope College, University of Michigan and the Colorado State University EWB Chapter have participated in our specialized training. If you are interested in scheduling an EWB training or a specialized training for your group, please contact us by replying to this email.

Project Spotlight: Empowering Youth in Cambodia



Cambodia has experienced a long history of political instability, including one of the most destructive regimes of the 20th century.

The Khmer Rouge took power in 1974. Educated people were the targets of this regime that tortured and

murdered more than 2 million Cambodians during its 4-year Maoist revolution. By the end of the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge had completely destroyed the educational system in Cambodia.

In 1979, Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge, but guerilla warfare continued. In 1991, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia sought to rid the country of the last of the Khmer Rouge holdouts and usher in democracy and foreign investment.

Despite recent economic and political strides, Cambodia faces significant challenges that may impede

development. Problems such as extreme poverty, poor education, corruption, and human rights abuses continue to plague the country and its people.

The urban poor are undoubtedly some of the worst affected, as they struggle to feed and educate their families. Many are forced to survive with sporadic and informal employment, and youth have few opportunities for a better future.

The Project

Empowering Youth in Cambodia (EYC) believes that Cambodia’s greatest assets are its young people, as 50% of the population is under 22 years of age. By educating young Cambodians from poor communities, with an emphasis on creating young leaders, EYC feels change is possible.

EYC currently operates three schools in slum communities in Phnom Penh, with a total of around 350

students. Students learn English, computer skills, leadership, sports, health, and other life skills.  Medical care is offered to the wider community as resources allow, with the priority going to students and children.

Many graduates of EYC’s Aziza and Lakeside schools are now employed as teachers at EYC’s Youth School.  Other graduates have gone on to university, with seven 1st year scholarships given this year alone. EYC has also provided job placements for more than 20 students.

Looking Ahead

EYC recently hired a Community Organizer to assist in the organization’s efforts to engage people throughout the communities in which they work.  EYC is also working with youth who have an interest in community organizing and leadership. The hope is to create a team of organizers to help communities with a willingness to partner.

EYC recently created a family planning team, and has had great success in the first phase. The plan is to develop an outreach team that would work with larger NGOs to offer much-needed family services in the community.

Unfortunately, each of the three slum communities where EYC operates is facing potential or certain eviction, and therefore the loss of EYC schools and students. If and when this happens, EYC will assess the situation, and the possibility of relocating to wherever the community is placed.

Much work remains to be done to combat the endemic development problems in Cambodia, but Empowering Youth in Cambodia is providing hope and inspiration that a better future is possible. The support of programs and organizations like EYC is absolutely crucial if we hope to stem the tide of poverty and human rights abuses in Cambodia.