After 3 years of working on the Sihanoukville dump and getting to know the community it became obvious to SSP that one of the most difficult groups to help were the younger children, babies and those not at school. The dump poses the most danger to these vulnerable children, as for babies and their developing lungs the toxic smoke is incredibly dangerous.
Approximately half the families and scavengers on the dump do not live there permanently, we identified that the most high risk group on the dump were those families that had no access to any alternative accommodation and lived permanently on the dump. It was this high-risk group that we were focused on helping first. Most of those families had very young children, toddlers and babies. Though there was a centre for some of the children (who we worked with last year) that was for children over 6 years old.
It was clear that what was needed was off-site access to facilities, hygiene, education and food for the younger children. Prior to leaving for Cambodia last summer, I met with Scott Dunn Travel and shared our insights and plans to assist this high risk group and they generously funded the nursery provision which we have set up with our in country partner project Let Us Create.
So in January this year work began to create an early years provision within the Let Us Create Centre. We also brought in our nursery nurse, Paula, to set up the early years procedure and train the current Cambodian staff.
Once it was ready we held an open day for the parents and are pleased that several of the mothers with babies now also attend the centre. (Watch this space for the Mum’s Project). To subsidize the income of the families, from the wage lost by their children ceasing to scavenge, we provided a rice fund to all the families whose children attend.
But how would we transport the children from the dump to the centre? Not only did we receive funding from Scott Dunn but also from First Mile recycling who helped us purchase a mini van for the outreach project. The outreach consists of collecting all the high-risk children and some of the mums 6 days a week and bringing them to the centre. Then all of the under 6 years olds and mums go to the new nursery and the few older children jointhe classes and art activities in the main centre.
We have now employed a social worker, Sokha, a driver, Dina, and fund the salary of one of the nursery nurses in the centre part fund and the Head Social Worker of LUC, Bunly. There are two nursery nurses, Sengkea and Ho, who care for the existing LUC little ones and the dump children. Sengkea, whose role is now funded by Small Steps Preoject said of the nursery, ''It is amazing to see that the children from the rubbish dump pick up the pre-school lessons in the nursery so fast!''.
This is really the most fantastic step because as well as providing the aid that the children need to be able to leave the dump we now provide them with a choice, an alternative place to be.
The nursery nurses are fantastic and the children adore them, but what is incredible is how most of them have responded to being in the centre and in class. Considering that none of them have ever been in school or had rules, they were able to get stuck in with story time and registers and lining up for lunch like all the other children, in fact, once they are cleaned up and in new clothes it is impossible to tell them apart from the other children.
We are so happy to be able to provide these high-risk children with an alternative to scavenging on the rubbish dump.
Unlike our previous projects, this one is sustainable, it gets the children of the dump every day and that is why we need your continued support and donations so that we can ensure the longevity of this project.
We would like to thank Scott Dunn and First Mile for their incredible support, helping us to make our ideas a reality and enabling us to set up these provisions. And we would like to thank our in country partner project Let Us Create for sharing their space and skills with SSP and enabling so many children on the dump to experience a safe and happy place where they can have the right to a childhood.