Volunteer Aaron Watson chats to Kong Somaly, who has HIV, while she sells vegetables at a market in Sisiphon, Cambodia.
Volunteer Aaron Watson chats to Kong Somaly, who has HIV, while she sells vegetables at a market in Sisiphon, Cambodia. Cathy Reid, AusAID

Aaron's hooked on helping the poor

SPENDING Christmas in a Buddhist country won't stop Casino's Aaron Watson having a barbecue with his mates in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Mr Watson volunteers with community group Women Organisation for Modern Economy and Nursing.

After completing a degree in development studies at the University of NSW, Mr Watson went to Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in 2008.

Described by an AusAID spokesperson as being "hooked on helping the poor and making a difference ever since", for the past year he has worked in development and project management.

WOMEN provides health care and education to more than 3000 people with HIV/AIDS throughout Cambodia, as well as 3000 children in orphanages.

Mr Watson is not always in Cambodia's capital.

"I spend about a quarter of my time travelling in the provinces," he told The Northern Star over the phone from Phnom Penh.

"I've just got $150,000 in funding from Australia towards educating Cambodians about climate change in flood-prone Prey Veng province, in southern Cambodia on the lower reaches of the Mekong River."

Mr Watson is managing to live on a small volunteer's allowance of $150 a month while in Cambodia - not enough to save up and come home to his mum and extended family around Casino for Christmas.

What's his message to those of us who will be indulging in the usual Christmas spend-up?

"Remember how lucky you are," he said.

"Have a great time with your family and friends - but remember the other half of the world who are struggling to survive."



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