We have a design! The group design process/dynamic is very stressful for me personally, but with Ben’s guidance, the group has what we believe is an achievable design goal. In concert with the construction of a 1.5-meter-wide road, we will pave the full area in front of a school in the community, and install scaffolds with green walls, collapsible furniture, and awnings.

BUT FIRST, because it is Cambodia, there has to be a ceremony! My phone was stolen, along with all of the photos that I had of the experience. Photos here are from the wonderful and talented, David de la Cruz!

L to R: Community Development Foundation lead, Ben, Ministry officials

Unfortunately I did not take notes on the names and exact positions of the people pictured here with Ben, but what is important to note is that the Community Development Foundation contributed a good chunk of money to support the purchase of road construction materials, and were instrumental in the community engagement process from the beginning. The Ministry officials showed up to be politicians, shake hands, give a blessing, and promise not to kick the residents off their land. It was funny to hear some muttering from the Khmer students about the hand-shaking, baby-kissing political song-and-dance… I suppose this is an international phenomenon in politics!

Crowd assembled for the ceremony
Pouring the first bucket of cement

Jess and Marta performed the honor of pouring the first bucket of cement onto the road scaffold. The community members worked late into the night the night before the ceremony to prepare the bamboo scaffold for the road, so they could start construction in earnest after the blessing.

Khmer culture is infused with Buddhist, Hindu, and animist customs. In the way I understand it, it is important in the Khmer custom to make an offering to the spirits which inhabit the spaces in which one intends to construct or make changes to the environment to placate the spirits that inhabit it. This keeps the spirits from being mischievous and ruining your day/life.

For the ceremony at Pongro Senchey, a community elder said some words, and lit incense on an offering table full of fruit, roast chicken, money, and drinks.

Construction begins!!!
The crowd as seen from the street