There are many misconceptions when it comes to the treatment of animals in Cambodia. While there are certainly some animal abusers in Cambodia just as there are anywhere else in the world, most of those who avoid helping animals are simply afraid of them.
As much as I hate to say it, there are just more reasons for Cambodians to be afraid of the animals that wander their street than there are for those in more developed countries. Due to the rapid spread of rabies and a lack of understanding of how to safely interact with animals, an ingrained fear has transferred down from generation to generation.
The Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society knows how serious of a problem this is, and has set out to end country-wide misconceptions and animal cruelty through educating the children of Cambodia.
Education Is Key
We know how easy it is to take on a certain belief when we are not exposed to other opinions. While certain customs and traditions are beautiful, there are some harmful behaviors that can be passed down without knowing any better. The only way to change a toxic cycle is by introducing a new outlook through positive education, and the best way to do this is by speaking to the youth that will impact future generations!
The PPAWS team has made it their mission to travel around the country and speak with children at local schools. During these missions, they discuss how wonderful it is to have friendships with animals, how to keep animals healthy so they are safe family members, and even the possibility of becoming a veterinarian when they are older. The goal is to make these visits as fun as possible, and the PPAWS team has this down to a science!
Teaching Children About Safe & Kind Interactions
Like we mentioned earlier, the fear of animals is ingrained. To decrease this fear in the children of Cambodia the PPAWS team must find a way to show children how wonderful animals can be when they’re treated with the respect they deserve. To do this, they always bring a furry volunteer along!
On these missions, the PPAWS team will first teach children about safe animal interactions. This includes:
- Respecting an animal’s space
- Reading their body language
- Kind ways to pet an animal
- Actions that make animals nervous such as shouting or running
- Never approaching unknown animals without an adult present
- Common signs of sick animals
- & basic animal care such as feeding and caring for them in your home
By demonstrating kind animal interactions with the dog or cat that came along, children are able to better understand how animals like to be treated. Having a friendly furry friend also allows the children to play with them and learn how much fun it can be to have animal companions.
Showing Children How Wonderful Pets Can Be
The volunteer animals that PPAWS brings with them to the schools are always thrilled with the abundance of attention they receive. They get to run around and play with the children, get extra snacks, and even take a nap in someone’s lap if they need a snooze.
Watching these animals have so much fun is a great introduction to what life could be like with a pet. These children learn how wonderful a companion they can have in an animal and walk away with the experience of a positive animal encounter.
Teaching Children How To Keep Their Animals Healthy
The most important way to ensure the safety of Cambodian children is by educating the public on how easy it is to prevent disease in animals. Many of the children at these schools have never heard of veterinary medicine and had no idea that a deadly disease like rabies could be prevented.
These presentations will discuss rabies vaccines, other core vaccines for animal illness, as well as symptoms to look for in a sick animal. Creating a common understanding of how easy these things are to prevent will promote a future filled with proper animal care. Preventive veterinary medicine will result in less deadly disease in the animal population, which in turn decreases animal neglect since people will no longer have to be afraid of them. Healthy animals equal a happy future for everyone!
Future Veterinarians In The Making!
Since many of the children had no idea veterinary medicine existed, they also had no idea that a career as a veterinarian was possible. Being a veterinarian is a wonderful way to help the animals and people in their community and is becoming an incredibly respected career in Cambodia as the years go by.
The PPAWS team will discuss how important it is to stay in school, tips to help them stay on top of their grades, and resources for college assistance when it’s time to apply. Even if the children are not interested in becoming vets it’s still an incredible example of the endless possibilities when you commit to doing well in school!
This is just one more example of how important it is to not only understand a culture’s HOW, but to understand their WHY. Cambodia is filled with compassionate people who are open to changing their outlook on animal care, they just need people and resources to guide them. Thankfully, there are incredible organizations like PPAWS that have made this their mission!
If you would like to donate toward the many missions that PPAWS organizes, you can donate to their efforts here!
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Check out Part 4 in my series – Amber Abroad: Part 4 – Cambodian Monks Caring For Abandoned Animals At Pagodas
Image Source: PPAWS/FB
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