In 2010 SSP distributed an aid project to approximately 40 families on the Sihanoukville dump in Cambodia consisting of over 150 people, half of which were children.
This is the documentary we made about our first project there; ‘Small Steps: Sihanoukville.’ In the film we discovered that many of the children over 6 years old are attending a project called Sareka House and school.
However there had been some major changes to the Sihanoukville dump since we were last there – it had been moved 10k away. Sareka House as well as the nearest school where all the children over six were registered are now both out of walking distance.
We visited the dump on several occasions and, after speaking with other NGO’s and social workers from Pour Sourire D’Enfant and The Cambodian Children’s Painting Project (CCPP), we decided only to distribute food and hygiene kits to the families and then further aid, clothes, shoes and toys to the under 6 years olds; babies and toddlers and those children too young to attend school.
This time on the dump there were 16 shelters and 13 families, so less than half the number of before. There were a few new faces but mainly the same as those we had met last year. There were three babies and ten toddlers living on the dump and two teenagers.
After a few visits to work out who was who and who was living and working there we did a distribution with the 13 families.
It was a pretty organized distribution, with the exception of one drunken man, everyone was relaxed. It was made easier because we knew many of the families from before and we were very clear that we had enough for everyone so there was no grabbing or shouting or chaos!
The people sat with their family group and each group was given 5 kilos of rice, noodles, soya sauce, fish sauce, fish paste, tinned fish, washing up liquid, laundry powder, soaps, shampoo, mosquito nets, tooth brushes, toothpaste, mosquito coils and food nets to stop the flies.
We also bought loads of tarpaulin for the roofs of the shelters which had holes, as rainy season was fast approaching.
For the families with babies and toddlers we handed out additional baby mosquito nets, toys, clothes, shoes and underwear.
We noticed that lots of the children had skin rashes and growths. So we did detailed medical research forms and photos to pass back to our medical team in the UK.
We weren’t surprised that skin problems were so prevelant because half our volunteers got severe paracites when we were in Nicaragua and that was only from being on the dump for a few weeks.
One of the babies with growths was actually on the old dump and her mother had spent the duration of her pregnancy on the dump. So it would be interesting to know if there is a link.
It was agreed by us and the community that the ideal solution would be a crèche or drop in center. The mums would be able to leave their babies and toddlers there, out of harms way in the daytime while they are scavenging.
Ultimately the problem will still be that they have to be with their parents on the dump at night, when a lot of the rubbish burning is done but a daytime solution would be better than being in such a dangerous environment 24 hours a day.
We have met with and partnered with the other local NGO’s in the area so we are now trying to organise a day center, or crèche for the small children of Sihanoukville dump with those partner projects.
The people on the dump are hard workers, forced to scavenge for a living due to extreme poverty and though things have clearly improved it is such a small amount of people that now need help, it would be great if we could set up a day center for them.
Let’s hope this years shoe auction raises enough funds to allow us to do that- because although there are provisions and schools available for older children, the younger children are still playing in rubbish and with IV drips!