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U.S. Volunteers Help War-Ravaged Cambodia Prepare for Tourists

In February, a group of 30 volunteers left from San Francisco to begin the first-ever U.S. Peace Corps mission to Cambodia, a nation in Southeast Asia recovering from years of war and upheaval. Volunteers will teach English to secondary school children as well as work within communities to help improve living standards.

The 1970’s and 1980’s brought war to Cambodia, including clashes with the United States in response to the Vietnam War, civil war, and over a million deaths perpetrated by the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

Today the country is at peace, is a growing democracy, and is struggling to overcome the various challenges created by its violent past. However, according to the 2006 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Cambodia is rated as one of 12 “hunger hot spots” in the world. Most of the population exists on the equivalent of one dollar a day or less.

According to the Peace Corp press release, ” Cambodians are eager to improve their lives, and many view acquiring English language skills as a means to help accomplish this goal.” The ability to speak and understand English is seen as vital to finding employment in the tourist trade, one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

“More people are coming to the country now and they use English to communicate with tourists.” stated volunteer Nathalie Galiotto of her work in the eastern province of Kampong Cham. “English is becoming more important for Cambodia because the country is opening up to tourism.”

According to Wikipedia, in 2007, visitors to Cambodia surpassed 1.7 million. Main tourist attractions include the temples of Angkor, Phnom Penh, and the beaches of Sihanoukville.

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