My phone was stolen so the images here are courtesy of Grayson Morris and David de la Cruz.
The last day before we headed off to decompress was spent making final touches on the scaffolds and awnings, and presenting workshops to the community. Jess and Marta helped the people that had been attending their sewing workshops put grommets and final touches on the green walls, and then we filled the green walls with soil and plants.
I found an organization called the Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organization (COMPED), an NGO based in Phnom Penh, with connections to German waste management experts. Mr. Rithy Uch came to the community on the final Sunday to present informational videos and booklets explaining why waste separation, including composting and recycling, as well as doing away with open burning is important. The presentation seemed well-received, and community leaders were able to connect with Mr. Uch about ways to implement composting and waste separation in Pongro Senchey.
We also asked one of the owners of the nurseries from which we had procured our plants to give a workshop on the care and maintenance of the plants we had provided. Then, with the help of Pagna, I walked them through the planting manual I had made.
Overall, an incredible experience; it was a lot of hard work and I cannot do the experience justice on this platform. I am very humbled by working with such creative and hard-working people, and I am privileged to have such an experience. I always felt like I was never contributing enough, never doing enough, never creative enough. However, at the end of the program, my classmates and I confided in one another that we had all felt that way the entire time.
Living and working in a place with a culture that at times seems so contrary the values I was taught to cherish. The experience allowed me to hold a mirror up to some of my own values and examine why and how they were formed. It was especially valuable to have the viewpoints of my classmates from the UW and RUFA to discuss these clashes as they arose. Certain moments exposed me to my own white and Western privilege (in new ways), as well as the fragility that comes with having these things presented to oneself.
The experience only makes me more curious about Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and because of its increasingly influence on these nations and cultures, China. There is too much of this incredible world to see…
I leave you with this song that will always remind me of Phnom Penh since it was playing in supermarkets/restaurants all the time. It was filmed at RUFA and hotels near our apartment!!! I’m sorry about the objectification of the ladies in this video, but they’re posturing off of ‘murican-made music videos….