Community engagement brings rewards for both villagers and project volunteers
1 Oct 2013
Confidence and an ability to get on well with community members are key qualities for volunteers working with communities, and Eart Saveun certainly has these in abundance. Already supporting the commune in a variety of roles, she was keen to help community members even more by becoming a volunteer with CARE’s Safe Migration and Reduced Trafficking (SMART) project.
Having seen so many community members being cheated when they tried to migrate for work, Saveun is now able to help them by providing valuable information to family members and those who are thinking about leaving their village to find work. She has planned meetings with community members in each of the villages she is responsible for to share key messages about safe migration, emphasising the importance of speaking with local authorities and distributing information cards with hotline numbers for further support.
However, Saveun’s involvement doesn’t stop there. Her engagement with the communities in a number of roles – such as responsibility for issuing birth certificates – means she is a constant presence within the commune. “Whenever I return to a village where I have done awareness raising about safe migration, people recognise me and come to ask me for advice,” says Saveun.
She is often approached for advice on the process of moving to find work and how to avoid being exploited. Saveun also regularly provides information about what types of work are available and encourages villagers to find links with others who have migrated through community networks. The key recommendation she makes is to migrate legally, representing the importance obtaining all the right documents before moving away to work.
It is often family members who ask for guidance on behalf of relatives who are already away working―they are particularly keen to send the emergency hotline number to their family for use in emergencies. Saveun says communities are very happy with the support they receive, as they feel safer knowing that they have someone on their side.
This support includes the backing of local and regional government, something many villagers would find challenging to access on their own. When 34 people from Chom Bung village had been waiting for over a year for jobs they had been promised by a recruitment agency, it was Saveun who assisted them with coordinating all the evidence and organised a meeting with the village leader to file a complaint against the company. This was then escalated up the chain to provincial level to help claim their money back.
It is not only community members who benefit from this initiative; Saveun finds the work to be very rewarding and she enjoys the social aspects of being a key resource for people. “Everyone knows who I am. I am really happy as I can see that the community are very excited that I have information that can help them,” she says, a smile lighting up her face. “I am very proud to do this job.”