Cambodia is a country in Indo-China. Something glistens there; a pearl. The Angkor Wat, a National Heritage Site draws many visitors from around the world. War is ruthless, and it has led Cambodia to poverty. Lacking medical facilities, the people there may not live beyond 57 years old on average. As developed nations grapple with the issue of greying population, there is no such problem here. Instead, there are malnourished children everywhere.
That trip will forever be imprinted in my mind. We asked the villagers if they needed any help, and if we could provide any material aid. Their reply was “Give us a road, and we’ll know how to walk out of poverty ourselves.” It was an answer full of dignity and wisdom. Simple words yet so powerful. Because of those words, I know, I will be back one day…
My second visit to Cham Resh was in end-April 2010, this time with 4 like-minded friends from Singapore. The dry season offered a different sight of the same journey. The lush paddies have now become cracked and parched. Dependent on the fields for sustenance, the ground has robbed the villagers of their primary activity. They, however, did not sit around and do anything. Instead, young and old, congregated to learn survival skills so that they may live on.
It is difficult for us, materially-sufficient people, to imagine that in modern times like these, there are still people living without water and electricity. When we deliberate between distilled water and mineral water, all these Cambodian people have, is mud water.
When our children scream at the sight of ants, to Cambodian children, are grateful to the insects because they provide them with some much-needed nourishment. To them, ant soup is a rare delicacy reserved only for the hosting of guests. Of course, we accepted the kind gesture with some trepidation.
Nightfall in Cham Resh is like a vacuum of darkness. An entrepreneur Alvin Goh, who went along on the trip, asked a young man, “It is so dark at night. What is there to do?” He answered simply, “Though the outside is dark, our heart is light and our mind is clear!” Not only have poverty and darkness failed to erode the villagers’ dignity, but it has also added to their grip on life.
Modernization may have abandoned them, but in its absence, the most beautiful humanity has blossomed. I have decided to follow in Dr. King Gan’s footsteps, to use my professional skills to do something for them. I am grateful for technology, that I may use my SLR camera to capture touching scenes and pictures, to tell the colorful stories behind these black and white stills.
If the stories touched you in any way, you too can contribute to making the path of the Cambodian people a bet