Once we left the main highway south, we passed a large shallow lake. Bannak, who is managing the project for Camkids, informed me that thousands of Khmer had died hand-dredging during the KR days.
It certainly altered my perception of this bucolic vista, imagining the suffering and starvation involved in its creation.
We turned of the last bit of pavement and drove several kilometers down a muddy single lane.
Past farming houses made of wood, mostly unpainted, with pools of water from the recent rains.
These are the farms which provide the students for the clinic and school. It was quiet, no sounds of motors save our own.
Finally we came to the new school, in the foreground, and clinic, behind it.
That is Bannak. Many years ago, when Dom first trekked back into Kampong Speu, Bannak (a mere child) ran out to look at the "barangs". He explained that he wanted to someday go to law school and come back to help his region. It was Bannak who eventually set into motion the project. Today he has a university degree and studies law- thanks to some support from Dom, and he is making good on his dream. That is a marvelous aspect of Kampuchea- though there are myriad reasons to despair, there are individual stories of triumph and success, overcoming seemingly impossible odds which raise the spirit and renew faith.
We toured the new medical/dental clinic. There are living quarters for a nurse; doctors and dentists will make weekend trips to see patients for free.
As news of our arrival spread, future students and a few grandmothers drifted in and began to spruce everything up.
Can you imagine appreciative children doing this on their own in wealthy nations?
I saw no evidence of anyone coaching them.
It was a sight to behold, and one that genuinely sent my heart soaring, talk of the logistics and purpose going forward, everyone speaking respectfully with such astonishing dignity and kindness.
I am considering a coffee table book with nothing but feet and hand shots- whaddya think?
Part way through the meeting, this mother came in with her son, who promptly fell asleep in her lap and almost flopped to the floor.
Another amazing cross section of feet.
In another fortnight the building would be filled with 60 or so kids K-6, the potential futures of each child exponentially expanded.