How to Help People in Cambodia

An NPR piece from May highlighted Cambodia’s long-standing debt to the United States. It comes to approximately $500 million. The piece also included a critical perspective on the U.S. insistence for reimbursement. Many are wondering how to help people in Cambodia when this debt is so high.

But with U.S. disbursements for the country reaching over $93 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2015 (according to Foreign Aid Explorer), who needs it more?

USAID classifies the nation as lower-middle income, and as the NPR piece noted, its debt originated as “a food loan taken out during the Vietnam War.”

One of the most important questions, then, is how much Cambodia should repay the United States? For some, it may simply be a question of whether the aid should even be repaid at all.

Only two percent of the aid in Fiscal Year 2015 qualified for the “military” category, while the rest fell under the “economic” section. The top sectors for this aid involved population policies and reproductive health, basic health and general environmental protection.

If the country cannot repay the debt back now—and if it is not projected to have the financial capacity in the future—should it be forgiven?

Or should those funds instead be systematically withheld by the United States? Is that morally wrong, as the country’s income likely makes it dependent on this aid for basic sustenance?

For an individual wondering how to help people in Cambodia, one can begin by lobbying for Senate Resolution 157—which involves Cambodia and other countries in Southeast Asia.

GovTrack highlights that this is “in the first stage of the legislative process” after appearing in May of this year. The website highlighted that the resolution “will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.”

Among other initiatives—which include addressing issues such as trafficking and maritime stability—the resolution “reaffirms… the enhancement of U.S.-ASEAN economic engagement.”

Furthermore, urging congressional leaders to favor forgiving the debt can highlight how difficult it may be for Cambodia to fully repay the funds. Contacting these leaders can include easy methods such as phone calls, letters and social media.

Including the outcome of strong economic ties with Cambodia—like its potential to become a viable trading partner—can be used when reaching out to these leaders. This reasoning relies on the notion that Cambodia may be able to repay if given the chance to grow economically.

While understanding how to help people in Cambodia often seems abstract and daunting, it is possible. The mobilization of people to fulfill small tasks like contacting their leaders can make a massive difference for the nation in the long run.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Since its founding in 2003, The Borgen Project has worked with congressional leaders across the country to draw more attention to the extreme poverty that unfortunately exists in our world. Working with these leaders can be challenging yet exciting, and one of the best parts of this organization is that everyone from all walks of life can contribute to this worthy cause by contacting their congressional leaders.

The U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. is made up of two institutions with a total of 535 members. The House of Representatives and the Senate each have distinct yet equal roles in the function of the federal government as they make laws based on the opinions of the voters.

Perhaps the best part of this legislative branch is that the representatives and senators of Congress are chosen by the people. When these members of Congress support or reject a bill or issue, they are giving voters a voice in the federal government. Congressional leaders really do care about the opinions of voters, which is why it is so important to find and contact your congressman.

When a call is made to a congressional leader concerning a specific bill or issue, a staffer creates a ‘Call Report’ based on all the calls received each week. These Call Reports are then sent to the leaders so they can learn about the public’s opinions. It usually only takes a mere seven to 10 people to call about a poverty-reduction bill a week to get that bill noticed by the congressman.

Although communicating with congressional leaders may seem a little daunting at first, it is important to remember that they are there to represent you in Congress. However, they can only fully represent you if they know about the issues that matter to you.

To find your three representatives in Congress, clink on the link below and enter your zip code. It really is that simple!

We can all make a difference in the fight against global poverty, and it only takes 30 seconds of your time. The Borgen Project encourages everyone to find their congressman and make a quick call to bring about the change in the world that is so greatly needed.

 — Meghan Orner

Sources: U.S. Capital Visitor Center, The Borgen Project
Photo: The Borgen Project

How to Find Your Members of Congress
Democracy is a wonderful thing. Any U.S. citizen, no matter their level of education, age, race, or social standing can call up their members of Congress and request that they vote in favor of or against specific legislation or simply a topic they feel is important.

So why don’t more people contact their representatives? Excellent question. Skepticism? The intangibility of the benefits perhaps? Whatever the reason, it remains clear that not enough people are taking advantage of this excellent tool of democracy. We at The Borgen Project think that needs to change. And that change starts with you. So, to help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how the U.S Congress works.

So What Exactly Is Congress?

Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 100 senators make up the Senate, 2 from each state. The House of Representatives currently has 435 members and the population determines the number of representatives per state. For example, Alaska has only 1 representative while the state of Texas has over 30.

This means that 3 people represent you in congress, 2 state senators and 1 representative.

And, There’s an App for That

Contacting your representatives seriously can’t get any easier if you have a smartphone. A free app is available for the iPhone called “Contact Congress”. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and hit the “use my location button”. Your 3 representatives will pop up on your screen. You can call each one from the app without ever looking anything up or dialing the numbers. You can also share your activity on Facebook and Twitter so everyone will know how gosh darn cool you are for calling your reps. You know you want to.

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear. Check out The Borgen Project website to find your representatives via your area code.

Once you’ve figured out who your reps are, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards making sure those who represent you are in fact, representing how you feel about certain issues and bills.

Great, so now what?

Call them! Yes, pick up that thing that plays music and updates your twitter and….(gasp) dial some digits. (or tap on the faces if you have the app) It will feel strange to talk to a real human but don’t be dismayed. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please increase funding for USAID.” Or, “Please vote to increase funding for global poverty-related legislation”. That’s it. You can call anytime you want, just be sure to leave a message if it’s after business hours.

The person taking the call will make note of your call. This is the important part! The aide will tally the number of calls on certain issues and often times the representative will decide how they vote based on the calls they get from people like you and me. If constituents don’t call requesting global poverty be on their radar, it probably won’t be, particularly in our current political environment. For example, some of the issues currently listed on my representatives’ web pages include the following- jobs, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform and healthcare. Not ONE mention of global poverty from any of my 3 reps. Where my BP supporters at?

Still not convinced? It’s simple. One 30-second phone call a week is the easiest way to make a difference in fighting global poverty. It takes almost no time and costs next to nothing (much less than donating to a cause or volunteering your time).

For more detailed information regarding your leaders in Congress, this website is a pretty handy tool. You can look up your members of Congress and their voting records as well as bills that are on the docket for the coming week. Stalk your congressional leaders with ease! And don’t forget to call them.

– Erin Ponsonby

Sources: The Borgen Project, U.S. Senate,
Photo:America Bikes