Making a difference
*These images are not for sale. If you have a special application in mind, then we can discuss the use of the images.
As we navigated on foot to reach the summit of the landfill, one's clothing and shoes were covered in the dioxin laden mud. (at least I had shoes on) As the fresh loads of trash arrived, the 'earth' we stood upon quaked as the trucks drove by through the 15" of 'mud' - a few poorly placed steps, and I found myself pleading for my friend, Ed, to help me out as I couldn't afford to have my shoe suctioned off by the ten inch hole I'd just created. I then began to envy the children riding in the compactor section of the garbage truck - no wonder they were smiling! I would have paid money to ride along with them! Finally, reaching the 'summit', the motorcycle drivers we had hired were already dispensing the rice into little blue bags we had purchased in the market. Crowd control was no problem. These women and children acted with amazing dignity - there was no shoving, grabbing, shouting, or scowling - amazing considering their situation (well maybe a little). I think it will serve no purpose to attempt to describe the smell and sense of just being there. There were no fires that day... I'm not sure why, perhaps it was too damp, however, I understand they set the trash on fire to alleviate the stench sometimes. Which in turn causes them to have chronic coughs and headaches with all of that horrific smoke - imagine plastic and uncontrolled waste of all classifications being burned...
Most cities have landfills (aka - the place where everything you don't want ends up). Most cities don't allow men, women, and children to live and work in them, however, some do. I've chosen not to ignore the things I see when I am out in the field. A handfull of people chipped in to buy a few items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, band aids, ointment, and rice. It's not a solution, however, it certainly makes a difference in these peoples lives. Keep in mind, these people are not beggars, they are actively working in this landfill - recycling. See the video clip (6mb) (pardon the shaky camera work ~ 'it wasn't me...')
This transcends child labor issues... it's far worse than simple lack of food or starvation. The changes that are needed go beyond aid funds... the children themselves often are unaware of the surrounding world.
Many of these children are between 12-17, the primary earner's for their families... most are not educated as they've not had the time to go to school... the endless cycle repeats itself. Even if they are given aid, this alleviates the primary problems of food and clothing, but doesn't remove them from the very toxic open landfill... nonetheless, it's a start. Where will they go if they leave the landfill? The street... and that life is often not much better or safer. Even worse, some become victims of the flesh trade.
Perhaps you wish to do something? I will take donations via this site and will purchase supplies when I return (tentatively late 2009/2010). I think the number one necessity after rice would be boots/sandals as I noticed many people including the young boy were without shoes of any sort. Also, any type of ad revenue that is generated from this site is used directly for this effort so click away!
I understand there are a few groups helping these people out - clearly more help is needed. Please take time to send me your thoughts on this effort and I thank those who made donations in the past.
Direct Contributors to the children of the landfill outside of Phnom Penh 2005-2009 (not including online donations):
W. Pookpueng - medical supplies - Bangkok, Thailand
C. Lehmann - cash donation - USA
J. Callender - medical/hygine supplies - tooo generous! USA
S. Patel - cash donation! - USA
R. Lehmann - cash donation - USA
E. Kobak - accompanied me to the landfill and we both distributed the items - thanks!
Chariya S. - talented & lovely Khmer woman who helped us out a lot.
(this relief aid will be delivered by me personally)
(other aid options are found below)
Perhaps you want to look a little deeper...
A few organizations offer assistance on a regular basis, one of those is a French NGO, Pour un Sourire d'Enfant(Francais only) & a local non profit - Mith Samlanh providing many developmental programs for these children.