Summary of a number of articles in Billed Bladet #41 & 42, 2012.
All written by Trine Larsen.
After a journey lasting fourteen hours Marie arrived at Phnom Penh airport to a damp heat of 30 degrees C.
With her were her LiW, Britt Siesbye and secretary general for DanChurchAid, Henrik Stubkjær. They were received by the Danish ambassador to Cambodia and Thailand, Michael H. Winther, and the local manager for DanChurchAid, Katja Levin. They were basically the persons who were to accompany our Marie on this four-day visit.
After a short breather at the hotel it was off for a work-lunch with local representatives for DanChurchAid (DCA).
Then back to the hotel for a quick shower and a new dress before it was time for a reception and later a dinner for local Danish representatives, for among other things Danish companies. (*)
Then it was off for a four-hour drive far, very far, out in the countryside to a village called Kroch, which has suffered hard from flooding. Here she was very welcome! No wonder as she was to hand out fifteen envelopes from DCA to the most needy in the village. The envelopes contained 40 $, for which they can live for more than a month.
It was explained why: “We have found out that cash do more good than for instance giving them rice. If they need medicine, they often have to sell their rice-rations, which they won’t get much for anyway. In that way they can buy rice themselves and medicine and perhaps buy some seed for the field”.
Indeed the whole village had turned out to meet and see Marie. Marie gave an improvised speech in return before she was shown around the village. Among them a couple of parents with a two month old baby girl, who has HIV. That made Marie tear up, the stories from other villagers moved
her as well. The flooding completely devastated the economy of this already poor village.
Another item on the agenda was a visit to some slum, Andong, outside the capital of Phnom Penh, one of the worst in the country. Here some 1.700 families live a meager existence without water, sanitation and electricity amidst garbage and feces from animals as well as humans. An existence without hope.
Sis years ago, these families were relocated by the government from a slum neighborhood in the capital and within a few hours placed here. Away from the capital, out of sight and out of mind. Without any compensation. (**)
Here Marie was shown around by a local human rights activist Madame Kek, whose safety is far from guaranteed. DCA has a few projects in this area, aiming at providing some work and some education for some of the poor.
The article describes Marie as walking around in the village completely numbed or paralyzed from what she saw.
She said: “It’s utterly horrible to experience. We must go home and tell everyone about this”.
She visited local homes where extended families are cramped together in single room sheds. No privacy, no water, all just lying on the same wooden bunk, raised a little over the ground. With cats, dogs and chicken walking around everywhere. With muddy streets outside, mud that is mixed with waste from humans and animals.
DCA had set up primitive workshops, where women produced jewellery from recycled paper and bags from old tires, which they sell in the city and earn a months salary of 25 $.
Back in Phnom Penh Marie visited street children. Some of these children, the fortunate ones, are taken into the care of a place like Friends House. Here children get a basic education and also learn a basic trade, some even learn languages. Including cooking and Marie indeed ate lunch at a restaurant set up by children who came from Friends House.
At Friends House Marie fell for the children in the kindergarten there and hugged all of them, saying: “Wonder if I should grab a couple of them with me home”.
Here the children can also get medical attention should they fall ill. (***)
Marie said: “Yes, I think you could see that something good is really happening for those street children. Not only do they get an opportunity for a better life, but they learn things they can use later on. We did see so many opportunities for them, a lot of activities. There were for example a beauty salon, hairdresser, machine shop and different forms of crafts (as artisans), just as the young can get an education and learn languages. It is so important to give the young hope for the future. Because without education they can’t get a job. They do have dreams and hopes like all other youths and that was nice to see. It was lovely to see them smile and nice to know that there is such a place, where they are at the same time taken good care of. Where they for instance also can get medical attention and medicine, should they become ill”.
Then she visited a crisis center for women, where there were 38 women and their children. Marie spoke to two of them. Here the women get shelter and learn a basic trade, enabling them to set up a business and take care of themselves and their children.
Marie said: “To support and help make such a center function really makes sense. That has a big, big significance and the visit made a big impression on me. The stories of the women were so cruel and shocking for me to hear, so it’s nice that they have a place where they are protected and get help. Both psychological and legal help, if they want to divorce and not least help to get an education or a job so that they can build a future for themselves and their children. Children who have often also been beaten and abused, so it’s fantastic that they find help in such a place”.
- Well, it looks like Marie really has had her baptism of fire.
I noticed no PET officers around, so I guess protection, if there was any, was local.
(*) As usual where the DRF are going, Danish commerce get some attention. Southeast Asia is very much a market that is cultivated by Danish companies, and the countries welcome investments and jobs.
(**) It gets worse. They are so poor that they cannot afford transportation to the capital where they may find some work, so now they have no work at all! Meaning that they get even poorer.
(***) For those who wish to know more about Friends House and similar projects, I can recommend the thread covering Frederik’s visit to Cambodia.
You are welcome, Artemisia