cambodia's next top model
this boy was a natural in front of the camera. he even knew which side was his good side!
Imagine living in a wooden shack on a dump site, being forced to work as a child by your parents who are either alcoholic or slave drivers, demanding that you spend nights foraging through mountains of rubbish to earn about 50c for every kilo that you find of metal, plastics and other recyclables. Unfortunately this is the life for many children at Stung Meanchey dump site, which is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
I mustered up the courage to visit the dump site knowing that it would probably be one of the saddest sights I'd ever see. I wasn't sure how I was going to cope with the stench of the garbage, given that I'm normally one to become queasy at the slightest of things. Once I got there though, all was forgotten about the smell, the swarming flies, the smoky air and the horrid mess. It was such a humbling experience to see these people going about their way like this, like it is just a normal part of life. The most incredible thing was seeing smiles on a lot of faces regardless of the situation that they have been faced with.
Thankfully organisations like
little girls waiting in line for their breakfast.
Pour Un Sourire d'Enfant (PSE) which translates to "For the Smile of a Child" have been established in order to rescue children from this perilous work and give them an opportunity to be educated and have a better quality of life. So far the organisation has helped over 7000 children by building a centre and providing them with meals, education and facilities that they wouldn't even dream of whilst living on the site. After meeting with the Communications Officer, I became eager to work with the organisation. I'll be volunteering at the centre whenever I am in Phnom Penh and will also provide my amateur photography services to them!
During my visit to Stung Meanchay, I had the chance to meet and learn more about Bora, who was one of the first children to be taken in when the organisation was founded in 1995. Bora's mother died when she was young, and her father was an alcoholic. As a result she needed to work on the dump site in order to help provide for her family which includes a younger sister and two younger brothers. Since then the turnaround has been miraculous. Bora now speaks English and French
even the cook gets into it!
well, has finished school and will be starting a job in October. In addition to this, PSE have helped her father overcome his alcohol problem and he is now a tuk-tuk driver who earns enough money to provide a home for his family.
Walking through the centre and meeting the kids was definitely the highlight of the day. They were all so happy to meet someone who they could practise their English with. The little ones climbed all over me, and didn't let go of my hands or other parts of my body! It was hard to fathom that these children could still be working on the dump site with no way out, particularly because the Government is completely indifferent to the children working under these conditions and turns a blind eye to it all.
Ok so you probably weren't expecting for me to be writing about dump sites or telling you depressing stories like this on a travel blog. But I hope that it puts life into perspective for many of us who complain about our lives, what we don't have or what we should have...
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