Student Perspectives: Why UC Students Help Children at Stung Mean Chey
By Pem Penh and Yang Leaphea
The goal of The University of Cambodia is to build tomorrow leaders. All UC students are encouraged to strengthen their abilities, not only in their studies but also in society. In March, the UC Student Senate participated in a project called "Students Reach Out to Children Living at the Dumpsite,” where they raised money to buy needed items for children living at the Stung Mean Chey garbage dump. UC students should continue to be involved with those children because they are part of our nation. They are the future of the country. They are in need and we have to help.
The Stung Mean Chey garbage dump is located in a suburb in the southwest corner of Phnom Penh, and the children who live there come from different places in Cambodia. Some of them are Phnom Penh citizens whose parents are very poor and some come from provinces. Many of their families sold their land to merchants to live in the city, yet could not afford living here for long. The children at Stung Mean Chey have faced so many problems they should not have to face. In addition to exposure to the unsanitary conditions, their families cannot afford basic needs such as food and shelter. They live in harsh conditions from the time they are born.
"We have lived here for many years. We can stand the smell. However, we cannot protect ourselves from diseases,” said Srey Keo, 15, who moved with her family from Prey Veng province to live and work in Stung Mean Chey. “I have to work under the hot sunshine, heavy rain and cold winds to get money, otherwise, we will die of hunger. That is enough to get diseases easily. I usually get the flu, and my body becomes very hot. I can not buy medicine to cure my sickness or else my younger sister and brother will die of starvation.”
Srey Keo’s friend Srey Nang, 16, also works every day at the dump.
"There is no Saturday or Sunday for me or my friends who work in here,” she said. “We need help, and we are very thankful to organizations that come here to share things with us such as encouragement, stationary for me and my friends to study, money, and other things we need.”
However, the two girls kept their hopes and realities of the future in mind.
"I want to teach children who cannot afford to study. I do not want to see people around me knowing nothing, not even words in Khmer," Srey Keo said with hope in her eyes. “However, I feel hesitant that I can make my dream come true. I was first in my class, but now I have to work hard to earn money and now I am sick. I worry about my lessons at school, but I will try my best."
Srey Nang gets discouraged by the fact that her future looks bleak.
"I have to work hard everyday for my family. I have no time for school,” she said. “I can go to school only a few days a week. Some weeks I cannot go at all. Teachers complain to me, but what can I do?"
During the day while the rest of society is studying or working, they are begging or collecting rubbish. When night arrives, they look anywhere for possible shelter – along the streets or under the awning of a store. Moreover, they have to find jobs to support themselves. Children with no family or supporter work for money by begging and stealing. These harsh realities are conditions no human beings should have to face. They bury them and the world walks by without saying anything to them.
They might become addicted to drugs. Some sniff glue because they think it makes them feel more powerful, less hungry, more free and more at peace. When they are addicted, they do not want to eat rice any more. They are prone to gangs and sexual exploitation. According to World Vision research, children who become drug dependent tend to be controlled by drug gangs that use the children to earn money.
Child sexual exploitation is also a concern for the impoverished children. It is generally facilitated by sex offenders who persuade the children to have sex by giving them money or attractive things like a phone or clothes. They might say they will provide the child with a job, but job is to work in a brothel or as a house servant. According to the International Labor Organization, children who work in brothels are forced to have sex. The children who work in houses are forced to do difficult work for little salary and sometimes are forced to have sex as well. They are punished and blamed when they cannot perform well in their work.
During last month’s UCSS project to help children at the Stun Mean Chey dumpsite, UC students collaborated with the People Improvement Organization (PIO). According to Noun Hengleap, former acting director of PIO, it is hard for PIO to recruit children from the garbage dump to study with their organization. Most parents do not want their children to study because they need them to collect rubbish to earn money to support the family. PIO gives rice and aid to those who decide to study at the school located near the garbage site. Each day, the organization must convince parents of the importance of an education to their children’s futures.
Starting out helping 24 children, PIO has grown to help more than 300 children through its three branches. UC students also want to share our love and care to these children. We raised US$420 and the UCSS donated US$250 to buy rice, clothes, books, pens, boots and masks for the children. We UC students joined together to strengthen our society. Even thought it was a small amount of money, we could help as they are in need. We also had to encourage them - teach them how to fish, but not to give them fishes, meaning the goal we have for those children is for them to study. We will encourage them to study, so that they have a better future where they do not to rely on collecting rubbish as a source of income.
At the same time, UC students want to develop society. Helping the children is helping the society because those children will become human resources in the country. As they saying goes, "Children are the bamboo of the country.” Children are the generation that will develop the country when this generation passes on.
UC students have opened their hearts with charity for the children at Stung Mean Chey garbage dump and they want to continue to help Cambodian society. Helping the children means helping our society. We need to feed and protect those children as well as give them hope, help and direction through education, training, assistance and love. As Deniese Dillon of orphanCare International said, "Every day presents an opportunity to be involved in a child's life and turn the tide of poverty, loneliness, hunger, illness, and hopelessness into a wave of love, security, and a chance for a better future." After we see children in abad situation, we should want to help those children and want to raise more funds to support them step by step. Helping them means helping our nation and showing human love.
To find out more information about what you can do to help the children of Stung Mean Chey, please contact:
People Improvement Organization: 012 530 093, 023 993 194, firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Cambodia Student Senate: 092 874 056,
Yang Leaphea: 092 667 078
Pem Penh: 016 998 801