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July 3rd 2008
Published: July 3rd 2008
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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
giggles giggles giggles

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
morning exercise morning exercise morning exercise

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...

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 24


down here! down here!
down here!

these kids insisted me on taking photos of them from above.
from the other side from the other side
from the other side

bora, a success story. she talks to students from oustide a classroom.
first glancefirst glance
first glance

after visiting the kids at the centre, this was the first sight we saw entering the dump site

the truck drivers do not care about the people and there have been reports of children being crushed by the trucks and their rubbish.
money money money money money money
money money money

every bit counts here. some parents make their kids skip meals so they don't miss chances to make money
another kilo another dollar another kilo another dollar
another kilo another dollar

not quite. 1 kilo of metal is only worth 50c.
smokey smokey

the smoke from the burning plastic has probably caused as much damage as cigarettes have to their respiratory systems.
dumped dumped

taking some much needed time out
snack timesnack time
snack time

taking a break. this is about 20m away from where the trucks dump their rubbish
all covered up all covered up
all covered up

the stench from the garbage and scorching temps are enough to make you cover up.
don't worry be happy don't worry be happy
don't worry be happy

yet another smile...i love how she is wearing the pink hat on top of her head scarf
new shoes new shoes
new shoes

a girl finds a pair of shoes. unfortunately she probably won't keep them, instead choosing to sell them so she can earn some money.
family fun family fun
family fun

and you wouldn't even know they lived in a makeshift shack.

3rd July 2008

Loving it!
Hey Belinda, I'm loving your blog. The photos are beautiful and your writing is great as well! I think you're only up to day three any I'm already looking forward to seeing what you've done each day. You just made me cry with the story and photos about the garbage dump! Can't wait to hear what you get up to next! Cherie xxx
9th July 2008

This is amazing Bel. I love how you got some shots of them having fun and smiling despite having to go through rubbish every single day just to survive. It's heartbreaking.

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