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  • Tonle Sap Lake and Common Grounds

    So far this journey has been filled with once in a lifetime opportunities, incredible stories of brokenness and hope, and one of a kind culture and physical beauty. The Tonle Sap Lake was a combination of all of the above. This is the only place in the world where you will see nearly 1.5 million people living on water. Not a lake house on the water but literally living on the water. It's a similar size to one of the Great Lakes. You can't see land when you're in the middle.

    The Mekong River is the only river that flows two ways. Ice melts on the Himalayas and causes the river to flow backwards and the lake here to rise 40-50 ft. This is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and also the home to the largest freshwater fish in the world! (The largest ever recorded was over 600 lbs.) There is a strong Vietnamese population from refugees from the Vietnam war that join the 100s of thousands of Cambodians that live on the Tonle Sap Lake. There is a strong racial tension between Cambodian and Vietnamese people. The exact population is not known but some estimates are as high as 1.5 million.

    PCL has given two boats to a Vietnamese missionary who is doing incredible things with the people here on the lake. They use one as a lake traveling medical clinic. It's a two story, 30 yard boat that helps these special people who, for many, will never touch land in their entire life get some kind of medical care as they do not have access to clean drinking water and disease is very prevalent.

    After our morning adventure on the lake we went to Common Grounds. Common Grounds is PCLs very own coffee shop here in Siem Reap. A two-story Starbucks looking joint with a full menu all day long including local and American favorites. The model is built around the motto, "giving the poor a working chance." They employ all local Cambodians teaching them work ethic, English, employment of course and other valuable tools that drastically improve their ability to make a decent living in this impoverished country. Even better, Common Grounds is not only making a profit but rolling that profit over into other projects around the country that are giving people a working chance as well, such as the English speaking school next door that has about 300 students at a time and the Build a City project in Andong, outside Phnom Penh.

    The model that PCL employs in nearly everything they do is built on sustainability and a working chance for the poor. It is quite beautiful to see individuals begin to have hope and dream for a better future.