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After decades of civil war and authoritarian rule, Cambodians are reluctant to trust anyone, especially those in positions of authority, including in churches.

But the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) has slowly and faithfully gained the trust of the Cambodian people they work with. In consultation with CRWRC, churches are helping communities to improve people’s lives by building latrines, digging wells, starting schools, and improving agriculture.

Even in a global recession and the resulting decreased charitable giving, CRWRC continues to help. In contrast to shortfalls elsewhere, funding for CRWRC’s ministry in Cambodia is growing—in part because the Norwegian Mission Alliance has signed a five-year agreement to provide up to $250,000 per year to support four of CRWRC’s Cambodian partners.

These partners have worked with CRWRC for years to develop leadership skills and reach out to local communities with programs to address needs. Now that they are more able to work on their own, CRWRC has helped the partner organizations apply for funding from additional sources.

“We are grateful to receive this commitment from NMA, as it allows us to expand our work even though CRWRC is suffering serious program cutbacks,” said Rick DeGraaf, CRWRC country consultant in Cambodia.

The new funding will help CRWRC’s partners continue programs focusing on health, sanitation, the environment, good governance, animal husbandry, and education. While CRWRC will still provide advice and consultation to these partners, it will now focus its funding on five smaller churches.

“In Cambodia, churches are referred to with the same word as for a Buddhist temple. These temples are simply places where people can pray and bring their offerings. Not much else is expected,” said DeGraaf. “However, what CRWRC’s small church partners are doing is changing that perspective.”

Some people are seeing churches in a different light: as places that can reach out and help their communities.

“Getting people to participate in the development of a village is the most positive thing that is happening as a result of our work together,” said DeGraaf. “What excites me is that local churches are leading the way.”

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