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I have been back in Cambodia for a few weeks now. In “The Kingdom of Wonder”, as it is also called.

The first thing that came into my mind when I arrived at Phnom Penh international airport, is the huge difference between now and ten years ago. At that time the airport was still a simple hangar, with all the accompanying charms, but now it has changed into a modern, sophisticated airport with all manner of amenities and service facilities.

But the arrival there still gives me a warm feeling of being welcome. Fortunately.

I have been in the Netherlands for the past six months and have been closely following the Dutch parliamentary elections as well as the formation of the new government. And now the same thing awaits me in Cambodia, because in June 2018 national elections will be taking place in this country too. And just like in the Netherlands, many political activities are organized here by the political parties.


Immediately after I had my accommodation in order for the coming six months, I made a round of all the projects. I have been informed about the current state of affairs. I have been updated about the developments of the past six months. I attended various consultation sessions in which the exchange of experiences was central. In short, I got a first impression and it makes me happy.

A few years ago we as a foundation chose to support our Cambodian partners in the process towards a CBO status. This means that a self-help group is no longer dependent on foreign donors and functions independently within their own commune and region. A number of self-help groups are currently in this Phase Out period and it was a great experience for me to see and hear that the deadline we have in mind for this Phase Out will actually be met.

This path we have taken with the foundation links up perfectly with the government’s new policy that Charity Initiatives should become more independent of NGOs (Non Government Organization) that are active in large numbers in this country.

Time and again I enjoy the joyful faces and the enthusiasm of the people who want to learn in order to expand their knowledge and skills and to increase their chances of a better and dignified existence.


But my stay among the poorest people in Cambodia also has a downside (of course). Every day I am confronted with the harsh and distressing living conditions of these poor and desperate people. They share all their needs with me. They tell me about their deceased loved ones. In almost all those cases there is nothing I can do. And often that makes me feel sad, powerless and frequently angry. But then I think: the foundation is a Tree for Hope, and that is also worth a lot, even though it is just a drop in the ocean.


Shortly after I arrived in Cambodia, the wedding of a good friend of mine was on the program. I was invited to this special event and immediately promised to be present. I witnessed all the rituals surrounding the wedding and was able to experience the way a village community is involved in such a special festival.


Every year in November the victories of King Jayvarman VII in the 12th century are commemorated. Because during that time many battles were carried out on the water, the three-day festivities are called Water Festival.

During those days, boat races (Bon Om Touk) will be organized, with the finish in front of the Royal Palace. It is a competition between a number of boats from different provinces. The background to this is that the former kings wanted the strongest men in the country to carry out those battles on the water. To that end boat races were held. Which means that these races originally were a military test.

This year, like every year, these festivities were closed with an impressive fireworks show.


In short: never a dull moment, here.


Kind regards from Phnom Penh

Hans Bosch

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