Day One of traveling in Camboida was extraordinary. The first few days of our trip is centered here in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Phen. Like most third world countries, there is an extreme contrast between the rich and the poor and a severely absent middle class. Before we left the hotel we were able to meet Pau and Kasol.
Two young adults who came in through the People for Care and Learning (PCL) orphanage and are now in year five of medical school. PCL has two orphanges here in Cambodia. When children come into the orphanage they are sponsored through university.
We left our hotel and our day started by getting to particpate in a Camobidan Christian wedding. This is a pretty rare sight in this 97% Buddhist country. Weddings are held in the street directly outside of the brides home. We hopped off the bus to the pungent smell of fish paste (soured fish), a delicacie in this culture, and the beautifully dressed wedding party. We were greeted with diet cokes, wedding wifi password and a coconut and egg sweet appetizer/dessert.We were only able to participate in the Western portion of the ceremony which felt pretty similar to our American weddings. This wedding was the first time that most Cambodians present had heard the Christian version of the creation story. They will have the Cambodian traditions later in the day.
Next, we were privileged to experience the Khmer Rouge Interrogation Camps, what we might call concentration camps, that date back to 1975. An old high school that Pol Pot, a new leader in 75', took over with great excitement from the people. Three hours into his reign he began to murder all educated people; doctors, lawyers, teachers, those who wore glasses, those who could speak more than one language. They brutally interrogated people until they confessed they were educated so they could excuse their murder. Over 4 years, 4 million people were brutally murdered. Babies were thrown into trees. People dipped in their own feces. Executions and camps like this one were all over the country. Pol Pot desired to turn society back into an agrarian society. His army was made up of 13-21 year olds that were forced to kill family anf friends. The psycological damage to those people and their families still lives on today. Many of these people still live in the city. Pictured inside each room were huge boards of pictures of those that had died in these camps. There were only five survivors of the camps and only one still living. I posted a picture on instagram of her. She is now a pastor and works with PCL here.
Andong, Build a City project
After lunch, we travled out to the site of the Build a City project. In 2006, more than 1000 families were displaced from the capital of Phnom Phen to the middle of nowhere outside the capital, a place called Andong. The government succombed to international investors that wanted to build huge modern high rises on the river. These families lived in sewage, literally. I can't accurately describe what I saw here because words won't do it justice. PCL is right in the middle of the project. They have looked to serve the people by presenting a sustainable future for this community of displaced people. The Cambodian government has been so moved by PCL and the love shown to these people and the model to economic and community development that they have declared that they hope to copy this model all over the hudreds of similar communities in Cambodia. A person only makes $30-40 a month here. An entire family might hope to bring in a meager $100 a month. Keep in mind, grandparents, kids and grandkids all live in a 12 x 15 sqw ft home made of stick, tins and stones gathered and little concrete. Build a city is giving people a deeded home with electricity that would not be much to our standards in the states but is an extreme improvement from their current conditions. PCL has built roads, hospital clinic, town market and has plans for so much more such as playground, community center and many more homes. The work here is messy. It is difficult for families to beleive in the future, people and hope for a better life. The assistant director of PCL, Jake Stum, told me last night that the children from their orphanage have dreams for the future and this is the great difference between them and most all other children in this part of the world.
I could write for hours on each day. I will continue to post and blog throughout this incredible journey but time is extremely limited and I have to rest with what little time I have. Thanks for staying connected to this project, for your prayers and financial support.