Paul in Cambodia with World Vision UK – BLOG
- FROM Paul Ewing
- March 12, 2014
It is a land not too unfamiliar to me, being currently resident in Thailand.
The food is familiar, some of the landscape similar, and the climate almost identical.
Tuk Tuk’s swarm like over-grown cockroaches across streets where there are no rules of the road.
Children on bikes that seems as big as buses in comparison to their small frames, weave in and out in every direction. I dare not look – I don’t want to see them topple off! They don’t care! Some pedal in bare feet. With a second diminutive passenger balanced precariously on the cross-bar.
We come to a standstill. Again. The traffic is uproarious, and converging upon us from every conceivable direction. Something’s gotta give! And it does; we extract ourselves from the tangle and inch another laborious 10 meters through the noisy bustle.
This is the capital of Cambodia. It retains its French colonial feel, with those memories still tangible in the atmosphere. Beautiful wooden and stone buildings that evoke a sense of a time not completely erased. Palms sway in the evening breeze and a potpourri of odours good and bad, waft around us. That only adds to the impact of being in this evocative eastern land.
This is a city of relative convenience. It’s not as developed as say, Bangkok, or indeed Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat. Still, we can eat what we like, get free wi-fi most anywhere, and the US Dollar is King.
Perhaps you or I could spend $25 (or £15 GBP) on a meal here that gives us good wine on the table and at least 2 plates of the best dishes on the menu. We won’t think twice when signing the bill.
But alongside convenience, as with many of these developing countries, there are stark differences. A world where convenience is as distant as the moon.
A newly built, bright and shiny family home stretches over 2 or 3 floors. It sprawls over a generous plot of land. Right next door is a tired and sagging tumble-down home. With broken pavements surrounding, that home has leaky corrugated roofing and battered wooden walls.
Murky passageways alongside snake down into a filthy slum hidden from the view of the street.
Rich and poor are often side by side. Sleeping within meters, but worlds apart.
We have eaten well today, as everyday in our western lives, and we head back to our hotel in our Tuk Tuk, to rest for the night.
We like the comforts of home when we travel, but this time – we are not staying 5* and downing the shiraz with dinner.
This is an altogether different trip. It’s not a holiday, and we are about to see a country of contrasts.
Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Cambodian history will know that this country has seen more than it’s fair share of trouble. There are endless accounts of the horrors of the killing fields and the scourge of the Khmer Rouge. Continuous and current tales of corruption, child prostitution and human exploitation. Sweatshops. Brick factories. Trafficking. And a government seemingly beyond the reach of accountability and any notion of care for its own people.
With all this in mind, I am more than happy to be in the hands of one of the largest and most effective non-governmental organizations in the World – World Vision.
A charity with a presence in over 100 countries, World Vision is working across the entire expanse of Cambodia. They are tackling these issues head-on, and committed to providing lasting change. Educating the Cambodians they live and work with. Providing them with long term strategies and tools that will enable them to build stronger, healthier communities.
World Vision is wrestling directly with the monster of extreme poverty and exploitation, bringing hope to people who would be the first to say they have none.
Their projects are long-term – most workers dedicating up to 15 years of their lives to bring change in these areas, and living in the affected communities.
Im an artist – a singer, and writer of songs, an experienced actor and TV presenter and musician.
My world is often a world apart from what I will see here, and I am starting to struggle with a plethora of emotions.
As I bed down for the night, I contemplate tomorrow’s first stop.
A trauma recovery centre for underage girls who have been either trafficked or caught in prostitution. I have no idea what to expect – so I pray to be prepared. In my heart, and in my mind.