Cambodia Update by Lucy Leishman and Claire Thomas
Today our team had the opportunity to make the first home visit. Eight youth and one mentor rode bikes from our work site to the homes of two girls who attend the school that we are currently teaching our English lessons. Polin, a member of Sustainable Cambodia (S.C.), served as a translator.
As we prepared to ride our bikes to the first home, a little boy from the school hopped on the back of Maddie’s bike. When it was time to go he stayed on the bike so Maddie, without blinking an eye, pedaled her bike with kid in tow in the heat of a Cambodian afternoon. As we made our way out of the schoolyard, boys began to line up, hoping to also grab a ride from a Youthlinc kid. Bringing up the rear I saw a solemn face boy who I didn’t recognize from the school. When I stopped to give him a ride his face lit up in gratitude. I severely underestimated the difficulty of biking with two under the Cambodian sun. The dirt road was unyielding. The sun was relentless. But nothing could be more motivating than the sound of his laughter or the feeling of his hands wrapped around me.
A girl from the school lead us to her humble home. The family built the small home by themselves about seven years ago. The mother and children sat on a large table and father, wearing only a simple wrap around his legs, sat on the edge of the table. We began by expressing our gratitude for their hospitality and willingness for us to be in their home. The father told us that he was grateful that our efforts would help his daughter receive an education. At this point the Youthlinc kids began asking questions. First, we asked Polin, who then translated the question in Khmer for the family. Finally he dictated an English response based on the family’s answer. We learned the following information. The family made a living by selling fruit. They purchased fruit from the villagers and transported it to the market. Sometimes they would wake up as early as 3:00 AM to transport the fruit. Both the mother and father lived through the Khmer Rouge and struggled to survive through that time. We asked many other questions relating to their everyday life. At the end we asked the family if they had any questions. The father asked that we teach the his children well. He said that there is much knowledge where we come from and he wanted us to share it. Upon leaving we left the family with a hygiene kit to show our thanks for sharing their time with us. It was an amazing experience to spend time in their home.
The second home visit was similar to the first. The father also lived through the Khmer Rouge and elaborated on the horror of that time. When asked on his feelings about that era his happy disposition changed. He told us that the children were separated from the parents and that one elderly woman watched over all the children in the village. Twenty-four years after the Khmer Rouge (2003) the father lost his leg to a landmine when he was clearing land for farming. Now he works as a stone-cutter.
Tonight at reflection Phil shared an interesting observation. The second home was smaller than the room we were gathered in. It was built completely by their own hands. They had so little. But what was truly amazing was the girls excitement to show us her home. She loved her life. She was not worried about what she had or more accurately, what she didn’t have. Rather she was excited to show us her family and the people she loved. The Cambodian people never cease to amaze me. They are happy because they have what matters most: friends, family, and a never-ending ability to find happiness in hard things.
As our Youthlinc group continues to make home visits we will be able to better see how these wonderful people live. As we see the joy in their lives I hope that all of our members will strive to live by the same principles that lead to their same happiness. -Lucy Leishman
Today the team took a much-needed day of R&R from the busy work. Despite the fun of the sweaty and eventful labor at the village, the team had another exciting day to visit a beautiful waterfall and a floating village.
We began our morning bright and early to take a bit of a ride to the remote yet stunning waterfall Kbal Chhay, about two hours out of Pursat. Upon arrival, the team walked into an eccentric mini market, based at the trailhead of the hike to the falls. The hike was beautiful. Filled with crooked wooden bridges, snakes, butterflies, and friendly locals, it did not disappoint. We ate lunch, swam, slack-lined, and had an all around great time. After an hour or two, we turned around and began our voyage to the floating village!
After some energetic singing and chatting, the team arrived at the floating village that lies IN the Tonlé Sap Lake. The village was floating, as promised. Surprisingly enough, primarily Vietnamese people inhabit the village. While cruising through the lovely brown water, the team observed a lifestyle like no other. Life on the water was deemed unfit for most, but we found it extremely inspiring. Their warm waves and way of life were fascinating. Amidst the welcoming environment lived many naked babies, and two hungry, hungry monkeys. The team left enlightened and very thankful for many things, especially clean tap water.
Despite the day of play, the team is looking forward to getting some work done tomorrow! They will return to the village well rested and ready for action. -Clair Thomas