About Lom Orng
Lom Orng means ‘pollen’ in Khmer - suggesting the seeding of new ideas.
Today the NGO works in development across a broad range of activities - livelihood and Permaculture, vocational training, safe water, cassava, manufacturing and (in 2011) emergency flood relief.
We began in the early 1990s - in the wake of Cambodia’s civil war - focused on the then-foreground issue of land mine victims: most of whom were unemployed, begging on the streets and marginalised. The Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society - these days named Lom Orng - was formed in 1994 by the late Dr David Aston, a Canadian humanitarian.
Today, Lom Orng (now entirely managed by Cambodians) has put over 15,000 disabled people through vocational training. Having trained as barbers and hairdressers, motorcycle and bike mechanics, tailors and appliance repairers, most have their own businesses, self-respect, and an income to support their families. Typically, our graduates undergo a lifting of their depression and the return of self-esteem. They frequently marry and build a family home.
Since 1994, Lom Orng has built vocational training centres in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces - and now a sixth in southern Laos. The results are often striking. In Kratie, for example, once-ubiquitous amputee beggars are now rarely seen on the streets: vocational training has transformed them into small entrepreneurs, and they have set up stalls and shops across the province.
After getting established in vocational training, Lom Orng began to broaden out - covering more provinces, and more fields.
We established a retail shop in Siem Reap for disabled artisans, and built primary and high schools in Prey Veng. In Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear we mounted corrective surgery projects, to heal war wounds, cleft lips and cleft palates.
In Kratie we ran a project to provide buffaloes to the very poor, to enable them to increase rice production. A basket-weaving project in Kratie enabled ethnic minorities to profit from their prime prime natural resource - bamboo - and to keep them from logging the forests. In Pursat the ‘Cows for Cambodia’ project distributed cows so landmine victims could increase rice production.
All this was done with the help of donors such as the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, the EU, AusAID, CIDA, IEPALA-Spain, Terres des Hommes (Netherlands and Germany), NZAID, Francophonie and the British Embassy.
In the mid-2000s we started to notice that business was a big generator of jobs and incomes, so we raised both private capital and donor funds to establish a cassava starch factory near the Thai border in Battambang. 15,000 poor farmers were trained to grow cassava, which then supplied the factory - giving them reliable incomes. Profits from the factory ran our Battambang vocational training for the disabled, our Phnom Penh HQ, and various ad hoc expenditures such as researching piped water projects for rural communes.
The 2011 La Nina weather system brought Cambodia some of its worst floods on record. Hundreds of thousands of rural people were stranded on patches of high ground, as homes and crops were washed away. Our major donor, the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, asked us to work out a way to distribute medicine and food to these people. Co-ordinating a group of four NGOs, Lom Orng mustered a flotillas of boats, then began a two-month distribution project. Our staff, accompanying boxes of food, water and medicine, boated for hundred of kilometers across what had become an inland sea. Since the operation began, not a single life was lost - in stark contrast to communes we didn’t reach.
In early 2012 we formed a ‘consortium’ with three other NGOs to implement the $1.4m After the Flood project across the northwestern provinces, for 60,000 beneficiaries. This is distributing chickens, vegetables and rice (and training in raising them), as well as sanitation and hygiene training. After the Flood is digging ponds large enough to supply a whole community in time of drought, and using the soil dug out of them to construct enormous raised ‘safegrounds’ for time of flood.
In 2012 Lom Orng began a partnership with USAID’s HARVEST project in Battambang and Pursat - managed by Fintrac. A significant problem in rural Cambodia is the breakdown of agricultural machinery such as tractors and rice-threshers - usually from lack of maintenance knowledge. This project is training hundreds of farmers to operate and maintain their machines optimally. A sub-group is being trained as professional mechanics, and to train further trainers. We’re very pleased to have inducted a number of women and girls into this training.
Most recently we’ve turned our attention to water. Lack of clean water is a huge drain on both incomes and health. (Unclean trucked-in water can consume up to 24% of household income - and can add a similar sum to the family health bill.) Our plan is to build town-quality water treatment plants in rural communes, piping to an average of 4,000 households. Detailed plans and budgets have been prepared with the help of our project advisor, Mr Ma Noravin - Director of Production and Distribution at the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, one of the developing world’s most successful water utilities. Water will be user-pays (being far more affordable than what villagers pay now), but donor funds are needed to establish the plants. These are presently being sought.
Lom Orng employs about 100 staff across Cambodia, and is managed and staffed entirely by Cambodians (with one Westerner serving as Communications Director).
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