I recently had the opportunity to visit the rubbish dump in Laos. SSP had heard of it’s existence and had been planning on delivering a shoe distribution there for some time. Then we heard that a
fantastic organisation called Friends International (who we had worked with previously in Siem Reap) already had an outreach programme there. I was keen to see what they were doing as outreach has been a big part of SSP’s phase two projects over the last couple of years.
What I saw really surprised and impressed me. Surprisingly the dump was much larger than anticipated,
bigger than most in Cambodia although less densely populated. What inspired me was the Peuan Mit Mobile school outreach programme. Friends-International run this outreach and using a mobile school bus, they pull out awning to create shade and they put down matts and suddenly, there on the dump, they have a make shift classroom!
Out of the back of the van comes a water trough and tap so that children can wash and the team also giveeducation, life skills, sexual health education and advice, first aid and primary care.
However, what was really great about the project was how calm it was, how naturally the team of social workers each got on with their own area and the
children gathered, no one queued or lined up.
Some of the children played games and badminton with sports equipment the team had brought, others had medical checks, some did reading while others had their nails clipped.
All the while the outreach team talked with the children and their families with such a calm and reassuring tone, by the time it came to leave, the only thing that was sad was that such needed care and attention was ending.
Not only did it take the outreach team almost a hour to get there, with their mobile bus breaking down on the day and all of us getting out to give it a push, but the Friends-International Laos team deliver outreach across the whole city so the dump is just one area and one community of many they are trying to help.
If only they had more time there, if only they could go every day like the other outreach programmes that SSP runs in Cambodia. The idea of SSP is to break the cycle of poverty and enable children to take small steps out of the dumps and into education, to give them a choice to be able to do something other than scavenging.
When there are no other provisions available to dump communities we find an organisation like FI doing an amazing job with a great team. The only thing we want to do is be able to support them to do their good work even more.
That is why we have decided to collaborate with FI on this project and fund their existing programme and hopefully, if we raise enough in this shoe auction, help them develop the good work they are already delivering so they can do it even more.
Ideally we would like the outreach to be running every day but to do so we would need to fund a new bus, as the one they are currently using is old and needed across the city. We would then like to pilot a drop in centre for the dump community to lessen the amount of travel to and from the dump and provide a safe centre for the dump community with a sustainable work based element (something that FI specialises in) as well as a nursery provision for mothers to leave their babies.
In the new year we will of course be funding a shoe distribution so that all the children on the Laos dump have shoes to protect their feet when they are walking over the vast area of dump they call home.
We are really blown away by the work of FI in Laos, and trust me – I have been to a lot of dumps and seen a lot of NGOs and the reason we do site visits is to ensure that the children we support and to whom you donate are receiving the best care possible, and that is what we found on the Laos dump with the FI team.