Collecting children from nearby villages in the morning

Choeung Ek: An Oasis in the Wilderness

The small village of Choeung Ek is situated a short distance away from the new dumpsite, aside a big busy road, surrounded by pretty rice paddies and ponds. A tour of the small village presents an array of bamboo houses perched on stilts, resting on hard bright earth under the blazing midday sun, across from what first seem like hazy green hills, but turn out to be the 50-metre-high dumpsite, majestic in its immensity, eerie in its reality, presenting tiny ant-like figures swinging picks at its summit. The paillote is only a few months old, and it is clear that this village is one of the poorest and most remote of all the PSE camps. The summer camp monitors, besides, agree that the little children are wild and naked, always running in and out of their houses or loitering by the outside kitchen with the cooks, unused to rules or organisation.

Yung Somath, owner of the village
Yung Somath, owner of the village

The village owner, Yung Somath, rents the houses to the residents at 60 000 riels a month (15$), and some of the families obtain subsidies from PSE. Yung has also agreed to rent the common rooms to PSE for three years to open the paillote there. He explains that he inherited the land from his mother when she passed away in 2010, coincidentally the same year that the dumpsite opened nearby. Most of the villagers work on the dumpsite all day, and one often sees adults and teenagers return in their filthy black booths, kramas tied around their faces, picks in hand, with big bags of dirty plastic to sell at the factory down the road. Yung Somath, on top of being the owner of the houses, also owns the only shop of the village and acts as a mediator when there is trouble between families, and offers his car as transport in case of medical urgencies.

With respect to the summer camps, Yung is really happy to welcome one to his village for the first time: “I love to see all the children smile, and come together to play. At first when they didn’t know the monitors they were shy and a little scared. Now they cheer when they see the PSE truck arrive in the morning. “It’s great especially in terms of keeping the children safe during the day. When their parents go to the dumpsite the small children are often left alone to roam around the village, and sometimes wander out to the road, which is very dangerous. Since the fence has been built and the summer camps have begun, all the families are a lot more relaxed and proud to see their children having a great time.”




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