The goal of Older People’s Associations (OPA) supported by HelpAge Cambodia is for them to become self-sufficient in providing local community-based solutions to address the challenges and vulnerabilities of older people and their households.
From the beginning, OPA are led and managed by local volunteers and permitted by local district, commune and village authorities to implement rural community development programmes. HelpAge equips the OPA with skills training, resources and interactive exchange visits to self-govern themselves and promote community participation from men and women, young or old.
How OPAs are established
HelpAge consults with local provincial district, commune and village authorities to identify villages with a large proportion of older people facing livelihood challenges. Once identified, a series of consultations are conducted with community members from the selected villages. Community members learn about the concept of OPAs and are asked if they would like an OPA to be established in their village.
If the OPA is established, community members are invited to join, draft a statute and elect leaders. Every OPA is unique as the members decide its purposes, objectives and participation in activities. HelpAge equips the OPA with skills training, resources and interactive exchange visits to self-govern themselves and promote community participation from men and women, young or old.
The OPA leadership is elected by its members. Each OPA is village-based and its membership comes from the same village. It has its own statute, which state the purpose of OPA that addresses local community concerns as established by its members. No two OPA are identical. HelpAge provides extensive leadership, management and administration training to OPA leadership, sub-committees and regular members to ensure that the OPA members have ownership of the organization.
Local planning and fundraising training
HelpAge and the Provincial Planning and Investment Division (PPID) in Battambang provides training to OPA to actively engage with their Commune Council and write fundraising proposals to local district funds for local community welfare, health, education and infrastructure projects. Older women and men are actively contributing to their local community affairs. In the past year, 18 OPA successfully applied for funding for roads, community buildings and welfare development activities.
OPA exchange visits
The best teachers of OPA governance and community participation are the OPA themselves. HelpAge arranges learning exchange visits between OPA to improve and replicate the successful local community development activities that improve the lives of older people and their households.
Social activities and ceremonies
Most OPAs construct an undercover meeting hall, a salachortien, in a central location in the village. Many older people in Cambodia are religious and use the salachortien as a place of worship for Buddhist ceremonies. During Khmer New Year in April, hundreds of community members gather at the local salachortien or pagoda for the traditional Srang Preah ceremony. Younger community members bless older people by washing them and giving them gifts to mark the new year.
Older people are an asset to their families, communities, and to society. Their contribution as carers, advisors, mediators, mentors and breadwinners is invaluable.