Scott Rankin regards the extraordinary friendships that he developed as the most important legacy of his time working to help rebuild war-shattered communities in Cambodia. “I watched people regain the capacity to trust each other again, and part of that was trusting and befriending me. And those friendships have lasted.”
Scott was the manager of an AusAID-funded project, ‘Rebuilding Local Communities in Battambang Province, Cambodia’, in which Australian volunteers assisted people to deal with the ramifications of the Paris Peace Accords that eventually brought peace to Cambodia. The massive repatriation and resettlement of Cambodians from refugee camps outside the country led to a situation where recent enemies were now living side by side.
Battambang Province was the most dramatic example of this, with more than half of all refugees being resettled there. Contributing to the lasting peace was the ability of people to live alongside each other in respect and dignity.
Scott’s work allowed him to support activities that helped re-knit the fabric of traumatized Cambodian rural communities, led by a team of committed community development specialists who sought to empower people to deal with their past and build for their future.
The team of volunteers spent two years ‘in country’, both learning to understand Cambodian culture and decision-making, while supporting communities to move forward united and with confidence, Scott says that Australians in the field were sufficiently removed from recent history that they could work with villagers of widely-differing political allegiances - for the good of the whole community. A shared sense of humour being a key to success.
‘The result of sharing a laugh was that we formed real and lasting friendships – it was much more than a matter of aid dollars,’ he says.
In 2004 Scott received the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (Cambodia Clasp) for the outstanding humanitarian work he performed. This medal honours people who render humanitarian service overseas in hazardous situations such as war zones, peacekeeping operations, natural disasters or civil strife.