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Working in Phnom Penh

The Leap - A Cambodia Gap Year Experience

Kat and Joelle joined The Leap in Cambodia

Not really sure where to start …. ! It’s all a bit surreal in Phnom Penh, all of a sudden we have been taken out of our comfort zone and routine in Siem Reap and we are in the big city.

This week has been a real eye opener and I was thinking this morning while I was in the tuk-tuk going to a pagoda with a monk, zig zagging through the traffic how different (the word cannot even begin to describe) things are at the moment. We are working with the monks in the morning at a pagoda, which is a Buddhist community area to help support the poor, and at a school in the afternoon at a Catholic funded school.

Working with the monks to is incredible and we provide English lessons to children from the surrounding villages. This is a new class, the children range from 5 to 15 years old. We have bought them books, pencils and a white board and are giving it a go! In the afternoons we are teaching English to teachers at a school a little bit further out. Quite hilarious really as they call me ‘teacher’! I keep saying that I am not a teacher, but they don’t seem to mind. The school takes children from the villages surrounding the school, once again they are very poor. The school is lovely and run by the sisters and very well equipped.

On Monday we went to visit a lovely family who are HIV positive, they live in a shack that is built over a very stagnant pond…which is also the local rubbish dump, it was not pleasant! We met the Mum who is 34 and has 5 children, her 2 youngest are HIV positive and she cannot work or support them as she is also ill. Her sister and husband were also staying with her who have a tiny baby, honestly it was just crazy. They rely on the Pagoda and charity to eat and live and apparently there is no rice here at the moment so food is a real problem. The Mum painted my nails red with glitter, the best manicure I’ve had in ages!

The village is really struggling at the moment as since three months ago funding has declined to supply the 128 families with rice (because of the rice crisis). I guess, call it ignorance, but I never really thought about how the economic crisis is making the poor on the edge here. Less money for charities, the clothing factories (GAP, Nike etc) are producing less, laying people off because demand is low so people cannot afford necessities such as food. All I could think about when I was learning this was the rice and pasta aisle in Sainsburys, how many of us have noticed how much rice has increased, we don’t appreciate how lucky we are.

That same afternoon we went to visit the school and went to see a village that some of the children live in. We saw a little boy of about 7 who is very poorly and he was sleeping underneath his house. His parent have to go to work to support the family and they cannot afford to take him to the hospital because they cannot afford not to work…they earn $45 a month! Kat and I have been talking to the school to see how we can help, it was just heartbreaking!

Been to see some of Khmer Rouge sites here like the Killing Fields and S-21 which is the prison they sent everyone to before the killing fields, cant put into words what they were like.

I think I have experienced a very different side of Cambodia this week which has been quite tough although there has been some very surreal moments…one of which involved being on a Tuk Tuk ride with a monk!
We are off to Sinoukville to the beach this weekend which will be fun!