A New Loo

Sometimes it is easy to overlook the most obvious things. I had visited this family many times before I realised that they didn’t have a toilet.DSCN2056

They have lived in this house for over 20 years and their only means of convenience was the nearby bushes. As a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) we were able to pay for a new toilet for them. With so many needs out here you have to look at the little things that can make a difference and not what you cannot do.The family consists of mother and father,three sons and two daughters. One daughter and one son have left home and the youngest daughter(who has just dropped out of school) and their two other sons still live at home. These two young men are both mentally disabled and need special care and attention-which they are only really able to get from their mother.The father is a recovering alcoholic and unwell and unable to workDSCN2605    DSCN2606

Now it certainly doesn’t look great but if you had not had a toilet in your house for over 20 years then I don’t think that you would mind too much about the outside appearance.  The house itself is built on stilts as it is near to the river which floods during the rainy season. When the last big floods happened in 2011 the house was flooded up to the first floor meaning all their possessions on the ground floor were under water for a number of weeks.DSCN2055

Their main source of income was when the father was able to ride his bike as a taxi around Phnom Penh. This had a puncture which we got fixed for him but soon after he got ill again and was unable to work.

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Short Snippets

  I’ll have the special….and make it snappy

DSCN1078 To get a flat tyre fixed is really no problem at all in Phnom Penh. The two questions that you would ask anywhere when this happens are-How much and how long will it take? The answers here are $4 (£2.40 including inner tube) and about 10 minutes.

DSCN2482  As you would expect to have your bed put into your bedroom. Like everything here it was delivered on the back of a moto.

DSCN1098  Chicken stock Cambodian style

  I had the pleasure last year of watching an international football match here in Phnom Penh when Cambodia played the Philippines in a friendly. It was a pleasure because it only cost me $1(£0.60). The only problem was finding a good seat…..

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DSCN1645  The school run

DSCN1601  While visiting one of the slums we work in we were intrigued to see a large crowd that had formed and wanted to find out who was the centre of attention. It turned out to be a nun from another  NGO who was giving out rice rations.

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RSCN2425  After the school run mum goes and does the shopping.

Work In The Province

As part of our work we go out to a small village in the Kampoung Speu province once a week. The idea is to help and support a small ministry there that has a kindergarten, English classes, a woman’s sewing group and Church services on a Sunday. It is about one and a half hours drive from Phnom Penh and we usually leave before 7.30 in the morning in order to get there by 9.00 and help with the final lesson of the day in the kindergarten. The children are there from 7.30 until 10.00.

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We also go into the village nearby and spend time with some of the families there and see if there is anything that we can do to help at all.

The sewing ladies have been making bags out here for a number of years now but needed a bit more encouragement and a new alternative to the bags they had been making. Hopefully we can support them and give them new ideas for the bags. At present we sell them in a small number of shops in Phnom Penh but are looking to find more outlets for them. If we can sell more bags then the ladies will make more money. If we sell enough bags then hopefully we can create more jobs….simples. When we return to England in the summer we hope to bring some bags with us to sell and hope to have a wider range on offer.

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We are often asked if we would like to have lunch when we visit. Sometimes we accept and sometimes we don’t,depending on the time and what else we have to do in the village. This week we declined even before we had seen what was in the pot….fortunately.

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On the way home we had to take a 20 km diversion as there was a strike by factory workers and they were blocking the road. We weren’t too sure where we were going and had to stop and ask the way on a couple of occasions but it was good to see a little bit more of Cambodia…..

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Life In The Province

Here are just a few pictures of life in the Cambodian countryside……..DSCN2505    RSCN2523 DSCN2506    DSCN2385DSCN1657    DSCN2393DSCN2446    DSCN2401DSCN2137    DSCN2392DSCN2079….and three quarters of a pig.

The Worst So Far

In my short time here in Cambodia I have seen a few things that I would not have seen in back home in England. Working in the slums here certainly opens your eyes as to how many people live and cope with life. The other day I visited the worst slum that I have seen so far. So what makes the worst slum? Surely when you have nothing, then you have nothing. It is not the small narrow roads or paths or the fact that this particular slum is very.. compact-there are a lot of people living in a small space. It is not the fact that it is maybe a bit more out of the way than most of the slums that we work with. It is the fact that it is in a graveyard. It is a Chinese graveyard and bodies were still being buried here until a few years ago.DSCN2534

Those living here are mostly Vietnamese and are somewhat marginalised by a lot of Cambodians.DSCN2535 When we visited the other day they said that many of them have lived here for 10 years at least and for the first two years they could not adapt to living in such a place as they were frightened by the spirits that lived there as well…They also spoke about how they just wanted to work, and earn some money and improve their lives (they couldn’t get much worse).DSCN2526DSCN2528

You come away from such places wondering what hope there is for these people-you really cannot see things changing for them but they just do not give up,they are amazingly optimistic and always pleased to see you. They will give you a seat and get you a drink and maybe something to eat. These people have such resolve when you think that many of us in the west would have just given up years ago-because we couldn’t cope..DSCN2534DSCN2532DSCN2533DSCN2530

I don’t know what the answer is to helping these people as they cannot help themselves and many others in this city will not help them. God only knows…DSCN2525

Logos Hope

FSCN2438The other week we traveled to the south coast of Cambodia to visit the Logos Hope.http://www.gbaships.org This ship is the largest floating bookshop in the world and stayed in Cambodia for three weeks. It was good to get away from the hussle and bussle of Phnom Penh and enjoy some peace and quiet.The beaches were lovely and the water clear and warm. We stayed on board for two nights and then it was back to Phnom Penh and back to work.DSCN2439DSCN2441DSCN2440DSCN2460                     DSCN2410DSCN2413

Newsletter

February 2013 newsletter

I’m Still Standing….Just

Monday started well enough as after language lessons we had some visitors from World Vision in Holland who were staying with MTI for five days. In the morning we showed them around one of the slum areas that we work in and introduced them to some of the people we help. We then took them to lunch at a place called Daughters of Cambodia which offers jobs, security, and hope for the future to girls who want to get out of the sex trafficking trade. It is a restaurant where the girls are taught culinary and waiting skills and they also have a workshop where the girls can learn to sew and make bags, clothes and other items and are given other opportunities to better their lives and forget the past and move on in life( http://daughtersofcambodia.org/ ).

After lunch we then went back to the office and into another slum area where MTI had helped build a house for a lady recently. I went to bed that evening feeling fine but woke up  soon after shivering and with a temperature. I slept most of the following day and went to see a Doctor that afternoon who after much prodding and poking and taking blood told me that I had an infection from parasites caused by a scratch on my ankle that had not healed from playing football. They patched this up and I was pleased that it was not malaria as was first mentioned.The following day my other foot had swollen up quite badly and they attended this also giving me more tablets to take.While laying on the bed I saw a pair of obsolete crutches standing in the corner and asked if I could use them as both feet were now bandaged.It was not to be,as the Doctor looked at me and said..”waste..of..money”. In other words-Man Up! I payed my bill which was about $100 (£60) in total and is covered by insurance and was leaving when the nurse gave me a roll of tape for the bandages.”For free” she said and smiled. Thanks I said but I would of rather had the crutches…DSCN2479

A Bit More Substance

After a couple of blogs with plenty of pictures I thought that I would enter something with a bit more substance to give an idea of what life is really like out here for some people. As a volunteer out here I have been so awestruck by the abject poverty that people live in…they just do not deserve to live in such circumstances-nobody does. But life is not fair and it never will be.I find it so hard that they can be so happy and cheerful,and willing to give you  what little they have. When you go to their homes they will always give you the best seats in the house-a couple of plastic chairs or they will clear the end of their bed of their rubbish so that you can sit down. It seems like a bad dream sometimes to be with these people in their homes and neighbourhoods ..but they will never wake up.We have to change their bad dream into a life of hope-and we can.

The people here are not defeated or have given up,but are simply waiting-waiting for something to happen that will change their lives.If they have not given up then we should not give up on them.Where there is life there is hope. And there is life here and there is certainly hope here. It is an absolute pleasure to be in the company of these people,I don’t think they realise how much they can have an effect on someone like myself. Not because they are poor but because they are such beautiful people.They are not defeated but more …..dormant. Change must happen and change will happen but we must make it happen.We must step out of our comfort zone to get stuck in and give to others a better life.I have only spent my time with these people in the day-I really don’t know what it would be like to spend time with them at night,when the lights go out(if they have any) and the rats ,cockroaches,mice,lizards and others move in.But they never moan.They just say that they would like a new roof for their house,more food for their baby and their children to be able to afford to go to school.

They deserve better,but then we don’t always get what we deserve. That doesn’t stop us trying to help them because where did any of us get today without a little bit of help…..?DSCN1414