Smile Village is an exciting new project by PSE, in collaboration with a Singaporean NGO, STEP, which seeks to create a prototype model for community development and poverty eradication. It provides 170 homes to families who have been evicted from their homes in the poor villages around the capital. Each family pays a subsidised rent of 7$ a month, for a fixed period of 2 to 3 years. The aim is to develop Smile Village in four sectors: construction, community development, children education and livelihood and enterprise.
There are currently about 26 houses built, with many more in construction. The social service team responsible for the Smile Village, which includes Chheanglin Meng and Tep Samkol, supervises all the families during the year and enrols the children who come to the summer camp. They help the mothers find jobs with the FLIP program of PSE and check that the children are enrolled in public schools.
The project being less than a year old, this is the first time that PSE is conducting a summer camp in the childcare centre of Smile Village. Lizzy Boyarsky is coordinating the camp, which welcomes about 80 to 100 children a day, who come from the houses that are already inhabited in the village, and from Toul Sambo, a closeby village. It is a very challenging camp to run as very loud construction is constantly ongoing around the centre. “It’s difficult to work in such noise, and hard to make the children quiet in this environment. We also have a lot of manual labour because we go to get the food at lunchtime on the other side of the village, where the cook lives”, said Alba, a Spanish monitor. “Although it’s hard work right now, this paillote has great potential for future years: the infrastructure is amazing and there will be more and more children over time. This project could be developed in so many ways”, she added.
The whole team loves having the same children all month and what’s really interesting is that as they are in the heart of the village, they can go to the children’s homes and meet their parents. “The best part of the day is going to get the children in Toul Sambo every morning in the pick-up – we see them running excitedly towards us, a little further up the road every day, even though they know we’ll come into the village” smiles Nacho, a monitor of the camp. “It’s so nice to share such a strong bond with these children”, concludes Alba.