Village Photos Showing our Provincial Home in Cambodia

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Village Photos Showing our Provincial Home in Cambodia

What’s the Environment Like for CIF Clients?

The Road and the Village

Tsubasa Bridge over the Mekong.

Children in Families’ provincial office is in Svay Rieng Province. It’s about two and half hours from Phnom Penh, and it used to be a heck of a drive to get there. But the Tsubasa bridge (or the Japanese bridge, as it’s more commonly known around the country) was completed in early 2015, and you can do the trip in under two hours now.

Well, it has that advantage, and the bridge itself is pretty cool. It’s a very Khmer thing to stop on it and admire the view, take a few pictures, and generally make the most of being out for a drive. So, why not?

Bright yellow suspension cables stand out against the blue sky.

The village itself is just a little way off National Highway 1, which runs from Phnom Penh right to the Vietnam border. You make a right and follow an elevated dirt road back into Cambodian farmlands, flanked by trees and rice-fields and isolated houses.

The road into the village. A farmer's house in the middle of the rice-fields.

The Children in Families office is on your left a couple of kilometres up this road, but we’ll come back to that later. Lets start with some village photos – a quick tour. In some ways it’s unremarkable, if you’re familiar with Cambodian village life. There’s a local government office, an elementary school and a high-school. Cows tethered by the roadside, and vendors of petrol and other minor goods.

Local residents sell petrol, face masks (against the dust) and snacks and drinks out the front of their houses.

The local primary school.       Inside the primary school staff room.Along the roadside.

There is also the forest, as one resident proudly pointed out – it’s the only village in the area to have a forest, which makes the place feel greener and more alive than a lot of similar collections of homes. “There aren’t really any dangerous animals in there,” he said to me, “but still, don’t go in by yourself. You should take someone with you.” I stuck to admiring it from a bit of a distance.

View of the forest-edge from the windows of the primary school.       The fringes of the forest.

Rice

The majority of people in Svay Rieng are still farmers, working the rice-fields as the season allows, using a mixture of traditional and more modern methods. Walking the rice fields is an opportunity to see how the work gets done, and get pointed at and laughed at a bit – this is a long way from Phnom Penh, and there aren’t many foreigners wandering around taking village photos, day to day.

Rice fields and gathering clouds.

A diesel-powered pump pushes water out to the rice fields.       A local farmer prepares his gou-yun (robot cow) for a day's work.

As I walked, I kept a wary eye on some threatening clouds that were beginning to gather at the horizon. I wasn’t keen for a soaking, though Cambodian clouds make for excellent, dramatic skies. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t get rained on, but I did have to ride home on a wet motorbike, which is uncomfortable in it’s own special way.) 

Palm trees and rice crops.

Back at the Office

CIF's Svay Rieng office.The Children in Families office itself is a humble sort of building, fitting nicely into its local environment. Dogs and chickens roam around outside, and there is washing hanging on the fence. It can seem counter-intuitive at first, having a professional service in such a low-key place. But it speaks, among other things, to the way the staff live among and with the people they are supporting. 

The kids Children in Families works with can be tough. They come from trauma, abuse and abandonment, and they need love, patience and time. The staff are committed both to providing those things to them, and growing in their own capacity to provide them in better and better ways. So as the rain began falling heavily outside, the Community Workers of Children in Families met together and spoke passionately about the needs of the children, the challenges they, as workers, face each day, and the reasons they persist, even in the face of those challenges. 

Staff listen during a meeting, discussing some of CIF's clients' complex needs.       CIF's National Director talks about the effects of trauma on a child's brain.

The weather breaks, and the rain comes down hard.

But still, this is Cambodia, and one thing the Khmer people understand very clearly, it’s the value of sharing food to build and maintain community. So it was probably only natural that their meeting closed and moved into lunch, on the floor, around communal bowls of rice and meat. 

Lunch as a team.

And it was at this point, on my contentedly full stomach, that I realised it was time to head home… and found my soggy motorbike seat. Oh, and my gloves, forgotten, in a puddle by my front tire.

“Don’t worry,” one of our program coordinators told me. “Just wring them out and put them on. It’s like air-conditioning all the way back to Phnom Penh.”

Air conditioning.

Right.

Village Photos Showing our Provincial Home in Cambodia