I would like to dedicate this subpage of our website to the mission that I recently started in Cambodia : Fighting poverty and building a better community at Koh Tbeng village near Kratie, located in eastern Cambodia. I fell in love with this small remote village on the countryside and its people and I decided to dedicate myself to making a difference for them. It all started when a friendly local called Sithal took me there on a very authentic countryside trip. He was born in this small village and introduced me to the people living there. After more than four months of traveling and seeing many places in Asia, I felt like making another dream come true : committing myself to a project that would improve the living standards of poor people. Although Sven and I already signed up for voluntary work with street children in Mongolia in July/August 2009, it felt like the right moment for me to dedicate myself to something important earlier.
Me and some of the children in Koh Tbeng village
Koh Tbeng village is located about 25 kilometres outside of Kratie in eastern Cambodia. It's a very remote village on the countryside and it can only be reached by dust road. It's a very authentic place unknown to tourists and most of the people living here even never make it to town. There are 29 families living here, having 82 children in total. Life is very simple here and the people are also very poor. They live in wooden houses on stilts and some of them are in very bad shape. Over here it's very common that a family with 4 or 5 children shares a small house of only 5 square metres or so. Some of the houses badly need to be renovated, because they have broken roofs, no walls, and a lot of holes in the bamboo floor, as you can see on the picture below.
This small hut in bad shape provides shelter to a family of five
Next to the great local family that introduced me to this village, I also met a 20 year old girl from France (Mathilda from Bretagne) who has been traveling for a long time as well and who shared my ideas. Soon we found ourselves doing efforts to improve the village life together. We bought sets of clothes for all the children in the village which they needed badly. We bought bicycles for two very poor women so they could sell vegetables in nearby villages and earn some money to buy food for their family. We provided the poorest families with a private stock of rice. We even took two sick kids (one with epilepsy and one with a blood disease) and their mothers all the way to Phnom Penh (5 hours by car) to give the children free treatment and free medicine since the health care in Kratie was seriously lacking. Those are just a few things that we achieved so far, there are many more things to be done over here and we want to do the best we can to improve their lives in the long term.
Sophet and her family when we first met them
The boy's name on the picture above is Tad (he's on the right). He's 11 years old and the youngest son of Sophet. When we first met him, we thought that he was only 7 years old. Like many children in the village, he's seriously underfed and also suffers from a blood disease. All of this keeps him from growing normally, he looked like a small monkey when we first met him (no pun intended). He was very weak and almost starving, had only one set of clothes and was very dirty, as can be seen on the picture. During the following days, we took him to town for a haircut, washed and fed him and gave him two sets of new clothes. Now he's doing much better, he's finally able to behave like a child of his age, being very playful and full of energy. The girl on the left is his 9 year old sister Tai. She has a very strong personality and always wants to take care of her brothers, especially Tad who needs it the most. She's very intelligent too and has a lot of potential, so we want to give her a proper education in the long term which might enable her to take care of her family in the future. She's a real sweetie and she captured our hearts right from the start.
The "reborn" Tad, enjoying his first hot chocolate ever.
For those who are interested in more pictures and stories about our achievements in Koh Tbeng : all pictures can be watched in this map : http://www.flickr.com/photos/capturing_the_world/sets/72157613487076058/
There will be frequent updates in Our Travel Blog as well which can be found in the main menu on the left. In the near future we would love to provide the village with a new water pump for the well (there's only one now and it's broken) and we also intend to renovate some of the houses in the village so the poorest familes will have a decent shelter before the rain season starts in July. In the long term we'd like to improve their education system to give a better future for the children and their families. There's already a school in the village right now but it's not operating very well and only teaches Khmer (Cambodian language) to the children.