Phnom Penh 6

29 11 2009

Saturday 28th November 2009

We have been sponsoring World Vision children for many years and yesterday we were able to see how it works ‘on the ground’ – we were very impressed indeed. We knew Hak Sok, one of our ‘children’, lived in Cambodia and after enquiries and meeting stringent protocols; we managed to set up a visit before we left Australia. The day was well organised from an 8.30 pickup by World Vision personnel through to the mid afternoon return.  On the way to the Area Development Program Office we were given a good general introduction of the Cambodian World Vision Structure and what the day would hold.

The particular ADP of which Hak is a recipient is in an especially poor district of Phnom Penh, with a population of 70,000 people. Within that area there are 7 sub-areas comprising of 3710 families among whom the ADP are working, targeting 8800 children. The office has 13 staff and 7 volunteers and a budget of a little over $200,000 USD.  Not wanting to bore you all with a lot of facts and statistics let me say we were extremely impressed with the obvious depth of professionalism, the breadth of vision for the project, and the obvious care and compassion displayed by each staff member we met. They are not ivory tower management people distributing funds – among other things, field workers are expected to have overnight stays among the communities where they work with a focus on building relationships and networking. The whole approach is toward empowering and promoting ownership towards sustainability of communities in development and transformation.

We arrived at the Hope and Peace ADP office just as the team were finishing their morning devotions and putting away bibles. Not all workers are Christians but it was obvious the majority were. We were introduced all round and led through a PowerPoint presentation of the program and invited to ask questions. We obviously asked too many because we seemed to put the day’s itinerary behind time from then on. After the presentation we were taken into an area in which the project has several initiatives going and first observed volunteers working in a local church centre preparing Christmas cards with children to be sent to their sponsors.

The project has targeted the poorest of the poor even in this very needy district, and although we have seen plenty of poverty elsewhere in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea we were pretty stunned at the extremely basic living conditions and squalor that many of these people live amongst. What does surprise us is that in spite of their appalling circumstances the people themselves generally manage to look clean, taking a pride in themselves and the inside of their homes.

Outside is another matter; the homes we went into are built on an old rubbish dump and there is water lying under the houses. Garbage and refuse goes out the door because there is nowhere else for it to go.

Amongst these basic dwellings we were led into the home of a local man with a deformed hand. He lived at the back of a string of shanties standing over polluted puddles rank with sewerage and household refuse. Beyond his shanty there was a turbid weed and mosquito infested swamp for the next 30 metres until the same sort of housing began again. After negotiating a very rickety walkway of broken and missing boards we took our sandals off to enter his home. This man, with his 8 or 9 year old son, live on their own as his wife had to return to the provinces for health reasons.  The floor of the dwelling was boards laid with gaps, flexing with every step, but scrubbed clean. Our host was spokesperson for a group of women who had elected him to manage their self-help group for business development.

After a thorough briefing from this gentleman on how this project worked, a couple of women, with excitement and pride told us how, after a period of 2 years the group had managed to save enough money to make withdrawals against their investment for business ventures. To put this in perspective, not all women in the area could afford to belong to the group because one of the criteria for membership is a monthly deposit of 5000 Real. (That’s $1.30 AUD) Three business ventures in the last month had withdrawn an average of 80,000 Real (That’s about $18 AUD each) for very humble projects such as buying food to cook and sell in the market place.

From there it was back to the office where Hak and his mother Moy were waiting for us. Hak had been let off school for the day and we could see the excitement and shyness in his face straight away. What a beautiful young boy, our hearts immediately went out to both Hak and his mother. After introductions we found out a bit about Hak’s family. We didn’t know that his father had died three years ago and Moy has two other children, a son and daughter aged 25 and 20 but she only sees them about twice a year as they live elsewhere. Although we had been told Hak was in grade 5 (and we bought school books for that age) apparently at the beginning of this year it was discovered that he needs remedial help and has dropped back to grade 1-2 standard.

Now where is Tasmania?

Moy is a bright lady but her illiteracy has hampered her ability to give Hak the extra assistance he needs. Moy told us that a neighbour has begun giving Hak some needed encouragement and tuition which she is hoping he will continue over the next year.

It was great to witness their joy at receiving the gifts we had brought with us. Hak was shy initially until Maree gave him a soft toy kookaburra and imitated the sound it makes…that brought a smile to his face. We ‘chatted’ through an interpreter for about an hour before we were all taken to a restaurant for lunch. It was buffet style and Hak and Moy managed it well considering it was the first time they had been to such a place. Moy commented shyly that she had seen them on TV.

Moy gets up a 4 each morning to make sweets (we think from  tapioca making some type of cake which she cuts into small pieces) which she then tries to sell during the day for her only income.

It was difficult to say goodbye but we have some beautiful memories and now a greater awareness of their needs and how we might assist.


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One response

29 11 2009
betty

I cannot describe the sadness I feel on seeing how the poorest of people live and survive . one can only find compassion and ponder on our own good fortune ..it is pleasing there are groups out in the ” field” to help and what a good job they are doing they surely need more and more help …love mum

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