Inspired Words

These are the experiences of our volunteers in Cambodia.


December 8, 2009: Planting the Seeds: The Family Dream Project

Posted in Cambodia on December 9, 2009

December 8, 2009
 

Our group of 18 volunteers from Santa Barbara County, California, and Vancouver and Kamloops, Canada, arrived in Kep, Cambodia, December 7 after a jostling four-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh. Our group also includes one Cambodian participant, Chamroeum, from Siem Riep, and Kasper from Denmark. We are an eclectic group ranging in age from 14 to 70. This morning we were anxious to get our project started and gathered early in the lobby of our guest house before boarding the bus. Our first stop was a school in the village of Chamcar Bei, where we had an orientation session led by Sarah Dobbe, Chamcar Bei program manager. Sarah is from Holland and speaks six languages.

During the orientation, we learned that Developing World Connections (DWC) and Bridges Across Borders SOuth East Asia (BABSEA) first established a presence in Chamcar Bei in 2007 after doing a community needs assessment in 2006. There are about 800 families in the village and nearly 300 school enrollees. When the project started, there were approximately 580 families, so school enrollment also has swelled along with the need for assistance.

This part of southern Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand is infamous as a Khmer Rouge stronghold. Fighting finally ceased here in 1993 when the government promised land in exchange for a truce. While the region is now peaceful, the people here are still recovering from the trauma of the war years, making them prime candidates for the four pillars of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia: education, health, livelihood and sustainability. While all the pillars are important, the most critical is sustainability, because the DWC/BABSEA project has a time limit of five years. Sarah told us the objective is to provide guidance and assistance, not encourage dependence.

After our orientation session, we split into teams and went through a “problem tree” exercise to learn more about the root causes of poverty and lack of education. The exercise helped us realize how inter-related and complex these problems are. While it was a bit overwhelming, we were advised that we can all make a difference, one project at a time. Following the Team exercise, we learned a few useful words and phrases in Khmer under the watchful eye of teacher Meas Theary.

The Family Dream project we are working on involves 26 poor families who are selected on the basis of established criteria. We start building two Dream Homes tomorrow –we are really excited to be able to create homes designed by the families who will be occupying them! An added dimension to our project is that is it being filmed as a promotional piece for DWC.

Today, after orientation and lunch, we planted two plots in the Chamcar Bei community garden. One group dug holes, filled them with manure, and planted eggplant seedlings. This brought a great deal of satisfaction to team members Bob, Jackie, Heather, Karen, Denver, Kasper, Michele, Rodelle and Jen because they got to work alongside the farmer who will be tending the crop. The farmer has six children and is a Family Dream participant. We were told that he can make more money selling the crop than working as a laborer and that our assistance enabled his children to remain in school for the day.

The other team, comprised of our Team Leader, Tommy Marx, and Participants Jud, Adele, Kayla, Julie, Gabby, Susanne, Brian, Celeste, Caesar and Chamroeum, planted radishes intended for sales to help sustain the entire community, including poor families who cannot afford to own their own land. These teammates are hoping the seeds with start to sprout before we leave for home December 18. We will be back at the garden next week to do some more planting and we plan to check on the progress then.

We are all in awe of the grace of the Cambodian people and the beauty of the landscape and look forward to continuing our work here.

Team Cambodia

December 2009

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