Through ongoing training, CRS’ goal is to help local partners become independent of foreign agencies by providing them tools and helping them develop skills so they can build on their own capacity. The agency works with 17 partners serving 200,000 Cambodians.In the meantime, support is needed in the Southeast Asian country still in the process of rebuilding after decades of civil war against the Khmer Rouge, a regime that killed about 3 million people and left a scarred community. Most of Cambodia’s population (94%) practices Theravada Buddhism or Islam; Christians comprise two percent of the population, the largest share of them Catholic.“The country is not getting much press anymore,” Hynes told The Tidings, “and the needs are still there and will be there in the long term.” A New Jersey native, Hynes heads a staff of 40, 30 working in the capital city, Phnom Penh, and the rest in rural areas.According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Cambodia is the third most landmined country in the world, with more than 60,000 civilian deaths and thousands more maimed or injured since 1970 because of the unexploded land mines left behind in rural areas. The majority of the victims are children, although landmine casualties have recently decreased, from 800 in 2005 to less than 400 in 2006 and 208 in 2007. The 2008 census shows that more than 80 percent of Cambodia’s 15 million people live in rural areas. The average household is five people, and about 47 percent of the school-age population has not completed elementary school.Agriculture comprises about 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and three percent of its exports. Growth in tourism (including ecotourism), especially in urban areas, has helped address poverty, according to Hynes, but it also has widened the gap between rich and poor.Sickness and disease are also concerns, affecting new segments of the population. About 70,000 people are infected with tuberculosis each year, while the death toll from HIV/AIDS reached about 236,000, with 40 percent of new infections being monogamous married women.In response, CRS utilizes a more holistic approach, said Hynes. Social services are provided in rural areas, integrated with health education to better the quality of life (such as use of clean water and healthy diets). For health services, CRS’ five-year strategy includes working with local clinics with an emphasis on assisting children, as well as pregnant women and prisoners with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, diseases directly related to lack of information due to poverty and migration issues.“These are the more vulnerable and underrepresented segments of the population,” Hynes explained, “and greatly neglected by the judicial system.”On the education level, CRS’ projects are more inclusive, increasing efforts to educate the community in including children with disabilities in the traditional classroom.“Many times the solutions are simple,” commented Hynes, “such as moving a child with poor vision to the front row of the class.”The agency is working closely with the Ministry of Education on a two-year pilot model that provides equal access to all. Teachers are taught new classroom techniques to treat disabled children, a segment traditionally neglected or abused by society or their own families, who often regard them as “the family shame” with no right to be educated.To keep their programs updated, CRS periodically runs assessments in the community identifying issues that have a negative effect and could be solved with limited resources and a creative approach.For more information about Catholic Relief Services-Cambodia, visit{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0729/cambodia/{/gallery}