Third World Disparity
Day two on the ground in Cambodia was a stark contrast to day one on the ground here. Day one we were able to experience the Build a City project in Andong, a village of displaced people outside the capital Phnom Penh living inn extreme poverty with an end cycle of disease and hopelessness. Day Two we ate lunch in the sky rise hotel that was built in place where these people were displaced from with government officials. If you've never experienced the great disparity of wealth in third world countries then let me explain a little further because our entire second day was spent in ties and jackets with men who make nine figures in a country where most will only make less than $450-500 USD per year (roughly $30-40 per month).
Meeting with His Excellency
Our day began with an early meeting with the Governor, His Excellency PA SOCHEATEVONG, one of the most powerful men in the entire country. He praised the work of PCL and said that the model can be used for the hundreds of similar impvoerished villages across the nation. He was an extremely friendly and welcoming man. We ended this day hosted by he and his wife at his hotel dining hall which was followed by a 16th floor rooftop after party, which included traditional Campbodian dancing and a live band. To say this incredible honor was surreal would be an understatement.
Meeting with the Prime Minister
After our morning meeting with His Excellency, a few leaders from our group were selected to have a private meeting with the Prime Minister of Camobodia, their president for an American reference. This meeting was scheduled to go 10 minutes and went 40.. This was all on the eve of the Camobidan Liberation Day that marks the day they were emancipated by Vietnam from the Khmer Rouge. Apparently it is extremely rare for outside Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to have meetings with the Prime Minister.
Tour of Parliament
After lunch we were given a tour of Parliament, similar to the British system, by the former Govern of Phnom Penh. This was very cool. The Cambodian people are extremely proud of this building because during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975-1979 all of their educated and skilled workers were murdered. The building of this facility marked overcoming this atrocity through building this beautiful facility with all Cambodian engineers, designers and builders. We were able to sit the seats of these government officials, everyone except the kings giant golden chair that sits at the back elevated part of the stage.
History in the Making
While this day felt strange, surreal and almost wrong in light of the work we have come to connect to, it marks uncharted territory in American and Cambodian relationship. Both Hilary Clinton and President Obama have been here within the last year. He was the first president to ever come to Cambodia. This speaks to the global awareness and importance of the need to promote democracy and capitalism in this country as China and other players position themselves for influence in and over this country. It is quite amazing to be anywhere associated with this movement in Southeast Asia.
Proverb 22 in its entirety has much to say about the relationship between the rich and the poor and it quite a good read on a day like today.
29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.