Cambodian Children Against Starvation and Violence Association
I've been here almost three weeks now and I figure its about time to write a bit about work. I work for an NGO (defined above) that works with street children in phnom penh. In the mornings, I go out with a field worker to various parts of the city to look after street kids and help some get vocational training/school. The problem is parents don't want their kids to go to school because if they do, they aren't on the streets making money for the family. To make matters worse public school in cambo isn't really free and the teachers demand money from the kids to pay their salary. Boils down to lack of gov support but we won't get into that...
Yesterday, I was in the most unbelievable slum area. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before in my life - even worse than some of the slums I've already been to in cambo. It was made up of alleys (narrow walkways really) lined with dirty shacks made from whatever materials people could find (usually tin, wood, and debris.) The ground, including that inside the houses, if a mix of mud, shit and trash. Some of the houses are on short stilts that actually sit on heaps of trash. As you walk through the alleys you pass by dirty naked children running around playing with scraps of plastic and trash. There are flies everywhere and you bat them away at first but then realize that it's not even worth it- there are too many. The people living there don't seem to even notice when they land on their faces- they just let them sit there. We stopped to talk to a girl who had stopped going to school. But how do you explain the importance of education to someone whose family relies on them to beg so they can eat. As the field worker spoke in khmer to the girls mother, I listened- but I could only make out that the mother had AIDS. I've since visited slum areas almost every day and you do get a bit hardened to the scene- but hardened isn't to say that you arent appalled or will ever forget it.
On a lighter note, I absolutely love it here. I've been here almost three weeks and I can already tell that it is the most unbelievable experience I've ever had. This crazy country, with all of its poverty- but also beauty, is really starting to grow on me.