Everyone has the right to education, health care and child protection. Here in Hong Kong, we’re lucky that the majority of us have easy access to these fundamental rights, and sometimes we do take them for granted. But let’s not forget that just across the water our South East Asian neighbours in Cambodia and Laos are in a very different situation, and that’s where Village Focus International comes in…
What is Village Focus International?
Village Focus, founded in 2000, is an international organisation based in the U.S, running establishments in Hong Kong and Cambodia too. Their main aim is to prioritise and support local leadership and decision making to better the lives of rural villages in Laos and Cambodia.
It all started with 15 villages and 4,000 people in the year 2000… and now, VFI aids over 50,000 people! At the true heart of this organisation is the staff, who are Laos and Cambodian nationals. They speak the local languages and fully understand the different cultures, which ensures that the best impact possible is made on the livelihoods of the locals. However, international support plays a huge role too, providing these local leaders with the resources and skills they need to make a big difference.
What do they do?
VFI are currently running three programmes, helping not only the young but also the old in Cambodia and Laos. The Protection & Empowerment of Women and Children Programme lends a crucial helping hand to those in rural communities who are victims of sex and labour trafficking. Did you know that 30% of trafficking victims in prostitution are children? A horrifying fact. VFI aims to prevent, protect and rehabilitate these victims and runs one of only two shelters in Laos for them.
The Healthy Villages and Local Leadership Programme works to improve education, to give these individuals the skills they need to improve their quality of life. VFI ensures that rural communities are given the opportunity to learn, teaching them about food security, basic health and helping them to develop maths, business and language skills. Last but not least is the Lands and Livelihood Programme which focuses on the local management of natural resources. Not only does this programme also give locals the chance to exercise leadership, but it also ensures that the people are made aware of land rights and the issue of conservation.
What can you do to help?
The opportunities to help are endless. From a simple donation to getting fully involved with the programmes, any support can and will make a difference. Donations can be made directly to VFI via JustGiving here, and for just $5 (USD) you can pay for a survivor of human trafficking to attend a business-training course… a little goes a long way! We know Sassy Mamas love to shop, so why not use AmazonSmile? 0.5% of your money from these sales goes to VFI with every purchase made.
If you want to see first hand the work that VFI is achieving then why not sign up as a volunteer? There is a huge need for volunteers and interns who can work in the Laos and Cambodia offices, providing direct help for those in need. And if working abroad isn’t possible, then you can become a virtual volunteer! Make a difference from your desk by using your laptop and mobile phone for research, design and proposal writing or providing legal or environmental support.