HelpAge International envisions a society in which all older people can lead dignified, active, healthy and secure lives. The organisation’s primary mission is to promote the elderly’s well-being and community participation towards healthy ageing.
HelpAge International opened its office in Cambodia in 1992 to support vulnerable older people living in an unstable and unsecure environment. The relief intervention took place in the provinces of Battambang and Banteay Meanchey up to the mid 90s. In the late 90s, communities living in these areas started to experience more stability with the improvement of security, infrastructure and services. HelpAge began initiating community mobilization and participation and established in 1998 the first Older People’s Associations (OPAs). The OPAs were initially established to fill the gap in social support for older people that was left following the years of civil war and political instability that had severely weakened traditional institutions such as family, religion and community. Over the time, the OPAs have turned into an effective community based safety net mechanism serving the needs of elderly people. The OPA can mobilize, manage, and redistribute common resources to sustain basic livelihoods and health; the OPA can support financially and socially the vulnerable elderly household and frail individual elderly, and can be used as a platform for the older people to voice their concerns and needs and to participate effectively in the development process. The OPAs are culturally acceptable and functional. The OPA can enhance the traditional spirit of solidarity, a greater integration of older people into the development of the community, improve food security and livelihood, maintain health, and increase voice and visibility.
The OPA mechanism has proven successful and is contributing to Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) social protection and poverty alleviation efforts. The Royal Government of Cambodia has acknowledged and fully recognized OPAs as one of the grassroots Community Based Organisations providing a safety net for vulnerable people. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) has identified the OPAs as a useful tool for providing social protection to vulnerable groups, for overall community development and civic engagement. The OPA model was formally endorsed by the government with the adoption of National Guidelines for the Establishment and Management of OPAs in 2009. MoSVY now aims to disseminate these guidelines to expand the network and scope of OPAs in Cambodia. At present close to 350 OPAs are established by the RGC and close to 140 OPAs are established by NGOs in 2 provinces of Cambodia.
The HelpAge International - Cambodia office, in addition to its community development work, is also extending and facilitating technical expertise on ageing to key stakeholders, government and civil society in the country.
The program and technical assistance have been in the last two years delivered by a pool of national staff with a range of expertise and complementary competences. The HelpAge International - Cambodia office is by default, already functioning with a local structure as it is managed and led by national staff. HelpAge International fully acknowledges the national capacity of the Cambodia office and recognizes that the time is right to support the localization of the HelpAge International Cambodia program and promote national ownership and expertise.