Big sigh……

The project has to pivot from designing a community center to designing a street and smaller outdoor public space. We arrived for our third community workshop on Sunday to find that the plot of land that we had been told was available for us to build a community center has an owner. The owner was there making a stink about the posters that were up around the community because their plot was pictured on the poster.

The outrage was understandable — they were in the middle of constructing a foundation when we arrived, in order to make their mark. There has been a recent history of forced evictions from central urban settlements in Phnom Penh forcing residents into outer-urban settlements like Pongro Senchey. People have been forced to move even when they have land title, the government simply evicts them for a higher bidder. For all we know, the owner could have been displaced to Pongro Senchey, which is 20-30 minutes from the city center from somewhere more central, not so long ago…. A bunch of Western people show up claiming to build something on your land, you would be upset too.

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A bit crestfallen after hearing that the workshop has to pivot on the fly


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Pagna explains the new direction for the workshop

Despite the pivot in design approach, we presented our community center and street designs, because the community may want to use our ideas for a community center in the future. Personally I was a little relieved that we get to do a more landscape-scale project, as I was feeling pretty stifled by the constraints of a more architectural project.

We will keep pushing the street design in the coming weeks, I am excited for the workshop next week when we have more focus. The Cambodian Development Foundation is going to support the project with some additional funding, and how that all works in concert will have to worked out over time as well.

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Workshop participants drew the activities and elements they would like to see in the new road
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Sopheap helped me talk to two little girls, Nita and Sreypei (not pictured)
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Reach gave the girls a reading and spelling lesson, at which they excelled