Today after class, I went to visit another Globalteer project: New Hope.
What a day.
New Hope is located much further than the Anjali House and in a small village within Siem Reap. The village is extremely poor and many of the students there are sick with tuberculosis and some with AIDS as well. There is a small clinic at the school where volunteers try their best to help and the love that pours out of them for these kids is infectious.
I snuck into Simon's class to snap a few photos of the kids.
After visiting the school, Tim, the friendly Australian doctor took me on a little motorcycle ride into the deep village behind the main village. It was probably one of the most rural, poor sights I've ever seen. He knows most of the families all over the village because he treats them so I got to meet and take photos of them. I honestly have no words to describe how overwhelming it was - most of the women in the village have AIDS because there is an extremely high prostitution level, therefore a lot of the children have AIDS themselves. A big number of them have tuberculosis and other deadly sicknesses. They haven't got much to eat and they live in filth. The kids are extremely dirty and many of the smaller ones run around with no clothes at all. There are dogs everywhere, sometimes cats, chickens, roosters, emaciated cows, lots and lots of flies and mosquitoes.
Although sickness is rampant, the children's smiles are contagious and they were extremely happy to see the doc and I come visit them. The kids were tugging at my clothes and my arm - they wanted to hold hands and especially wanted me to photograph them and show them the photos. They laughed and ran with us everywhere we walked and they huddled around us every time Tim would stop to treat someone.
Knowing this type of poverty exists is one thing, but seeing and living it is like a swallowed bowling ball. The life expectancy is around 40 and the infants with severe illnesses probably won't live beyond a few years. One small child had both tuberculosis and AIDS.
They live in straw shacks that are gradually falling apart and the earth around them is covered in trash. It's not uncommon to see kids playing near fire, barbwire or other hazards and there is no sense of safety at all especially when it comes to riding on bicycles, even with 3 kids on the back.
On the tuk-tuk back to the guesthouse, all I could think to myself was "Wow. Life is insane. And I'm one hell of a lucky person." I feel very privileged to be able to witness this type of environment, although very harsh and somewhat dangerous, and the awe that I have towards the strength of these people who struggle for their lives day by day is mountainous. I feel great sadness that the world offers so much pain and sickness, but I embrace humanity for putting up a fight. I feel blessed that I live the life I do and if you're able to read this, you should about your life too.
The children in Cambodia are magnificent in every way. Their hope and happiness shine through their adorable little faces and it's extremely frustrating to assume that without a drastic change of political regime, there is little hope for them to flea this type of poverty and sickness.
It was quite a memorable day.