Well, we may be fundraising here in the UK but while we are doing that the SSP team are still delivering on rubbish dumps. Bianca, an SSP volunteer, headed up a distribution team on Dec 4th to visit the Siem Reap Dump in Cambodia which has been open since April 2009. This is the first (I hope of many projects) not led by myself. We are all so proud of Bianca to leading the project and to Lucy who took the aid over to Cambodia. I am so pleased that we are starting to grow enough that we can be delivering aid while I am in the UK as well as delivering projects myself, as it means we get to help more children. Next we need an office in London so if anyone reading this would like to donate an office big enough fo the UK small Steps Team (5 people) please contact us!
This is Bianca’s story back on what happened:
On arrival a rubbish truck had just pulled up at the site, poised to unload, while the majority of the population inhabiting the dump (including children) formed queues either side of the truck, ready to scavenge through what was about to be tipped in to their home.
While this was happening, we lay out plastic sacks and separated the provisions into shoes, clothing, medicine, toiletries, stationary/toys and food.After liaising between the translator and one of the head women living at the dump, we were able to have the children line up so that we could organise the shoes and hand them out one pair at a time to ensure that the majority of the children received a pair each – and in the best possible size for them.
Over the next couple of hours, the clothes, toiletries and further provisions were evenly distributed, with the head female figures from the dump working with our volunteers to ensure that everyone lined and up and split provisions as equally as possible.With regard to the toiletries and medicine, we were careful to ensure that only generic products were distributed, offering nothing that require a prescription or very specific need that we might not have been able to explain.
What we discovered:
I was told that there are around 200-500 people living on the dump. Unlike many of the dumps in Cambodia, Siem Reap did not have a manager; however they did work with a manager at a nearby plastic company, to whom they sold plastic to be recycled. The lack of manager at the site does mean that there is no control over the community living at the dump.
There is also a local school in Rulus, attendance is free, however most of the children on the dump do not go.The fundamental reason for children not being able to attend school is because families rely on them to collect plastic to sell on for recycling. However I was advised that if we were able to offer some income support to these families then they would send their children to school.
It is my opinion that not all families would honour this, preferring the extra financial support from us and what their children could bring in; however there were some on the dump who genuinely appeared to want to go to school and could see its benefits – so this option would work for some, but not all.
One way to get round this might be to have a Small Steps teacher/representative at the school to check attendance of those coming to school, which we could mark against those receiving benefits – this would take a lot of organising and understanding who the families are on the dump, but is not an impossible method.
One girl interrupted the interview to tell me that all she needed to go to school would be a bike, which led me to ask about transport. This is something that would help get the children to school, and would tend to suggest a bus rather than a bike (which can be sold) but would have to be used in conjunction with some income support, or the bus would not be used.
As well as income and transport, for the children to attend the school, uniforms and stationary would need to be provided.
When asked what there most fundamental need was, there and then, I was told boots (such as wellington boots) to protect their feet on the dump. They confirmed that they would need approximately 200 pairs of boots, and they would need to be replaced as they wear out and their feet grow.
Also, anything to act as a protective layer on their skin – such as thicker long sleeved clothes were needed as well.
Next steps: A second visit to the dump during December/ early January to find out more and to take any more provisions that we can.
So with the money raised we are able to keep providing the things that the children need and make sure that everyone gets boots but we are also shipping things over so please this Christmas- if you are getting id of your children’s boots and clothes please donate them to the Small Steps shoes and Clothing drive which is organised thanks to the generosity of Eva Alexander so please send to Eva Alexander Maternity, Small Steps Shoes & Clothing Drive, P.O.Box 56966, London N10 9BH or email email@example.com to arrange a drop off in North London.
And please, please keep donating so that we can keep helping these children.