Gloucester couple head for Cambodia
Couple to Fight Drugs menace in Cambodia - from ThisIsGloucestershire.co.uk
Retired Gloucester couple are preparing to head to Cambodia to help young people overcome drug addictions. Patrick Prosser, 68, and his wife Jenny, 65, of Speedwell Close, Abbeymead, jet out next Wednesday to set up the operation. They are working on the initiative with the Cambodian government, non-governmental organisations and volunteers in the country, with the support of the United Nations. They will be in the capital Phnom Penh for one month, where they will teach volunteers how to help young people and their families.
Mr Prosser was a drugs worker for the Life for the World Trust charity, which had premises in Blockley. He was moved to act after a visit to Cambodia in September 2005. He said: "Really, this project chose us. I was contacted to provide basic training to church volunteers over there." The church we go to, the Gloucester Community Church, as well as the Gloucester City Church, supported us by paying the air fare, so we jumped at the chance. I was there for ten days and I realised immediately that this would take a much bigger effort. What I saw was unbelievable. I know that there are problems with drugs among young people in England, but I was seeing children aged six sniffing glue or on amphetamines. Even while they were high, they were scrambling around rubbish tips looking for recyclable material to sell for their next hit. It was shocking." People-trafficking in the Asian state has also added to the drug problem. Mr Prosser said: "Maybe as many as 350 to 400 children are kidnapped from Cambodia and sold into slavery every week. They are given drugs to keep them docile and unaware of what is happening to them. When they do eventually realise their situation, they return home, but they are drug addicts. There are very few people to help them out of their vulnerable position."
On the couple's return to the UK, they vowed to do all they could to help. After consultation with the UN, negotiations with the Cambodian government and close contact with the Cambodian church movements, they developed the five-year programme that they are about to launch. Cambodia's average wage is less than £25 per month, while the population's average age is just 19½. The Prossers believe that the population's lack of experience of parenthood and society is another part of its problems. Mr Prosser added: "We are there to help give them the skills they need to make Cambodia a happier place to live. We will have a training role and it will be the Cambodians who make the difference to their country. But we will return to see how things are going and offer every help we can. We expect to go over three times a year in the next five years."