Our work here in Cambodia has been an experience this week of witnessing some of the extreme poverty in Phnom Penh. We read a very revealing book while we were home this past summer. Cambodia’s Curse, it is written to describe the history of Cambodia and its troubled past. We also read a true story called ‘The Rent Collector’. It detailed the life of a poor woman who was raising a family and earning her living on Trash Mountain. It is a moving story that describes what life is like scavenging what precious little there is on the giant mountain of garbage being dumped daily.
We visited Trash Mountain, no longer the site of dumping, but it sits there as a voice from the past, probably 30 acres of trash in an enclosure, moldering away, not covered with soil but open and exposed. During the rainy season, a small stream flowed from its base, down the side of a dirt street, where little children played in the mud. Much fewer people are now picking there, their livelihood is mostly gone. We visited a site where over 400 homes have been built. They are on 8 ft stilts so that when it floods, they can sleep without getting wet. The homes measure about 8 ft square. One room which is where a family of perhaps 4 or 5 sleep and eat. The homes are crowded together, with an outdoor common latrine and water station. These homes are managed by an NGO that rents the home to the family for $20 per month. It is low so that the family can begin to get on their own and live somewhere better suited for their children. Prior to these, they might have lived under a tarp, or a piece of tin that they had found, with no privacy, no protection.
Saturday and Sunday we visited members of the Sen Sok branch. We entered a neighborhood where there were small homes on narrow streets, and met a widowed sister who lived in an 8 x 8 home. Her bed rolled up along the wall. She earns a few dollars a week by making donuts and selling them on the street corner. Sunday we met a few more folks, very humble. Our hearts break when we remember how we have felt like we didn’t have enough of stuff, we see how people in our world barely survive.
We see the blessings that the Gospel can bring to rich and poor. The Lord loves each of His children. Even the least of these. We love these people. They are sweet and humble and kind. We gave blessings and prayed with them. The fast offerings here are truly needed and used on behalf of the members.
We love our time here. We pray we are making a difference. We do humanitarian work for the country during the week. And we minister to the members on the weekend. We weary faster than we would like, but we love our work. All our love to our family. A mission is the very best! We love the Elders and Sisters here. We love our family at home. We pray each day and night for you! We love our friends at home. We pray for you. More to come…
Love, Elder and Sister Stone