January 7th marked the 39th year anniversary of the fall and overthrow of the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia continues to struggle with widespread poverty and illiteracy since then.
We sailed down Tonle Sap where hundreds of Vietnamese and Cambodian families established small living communities on the water. More than 80% of these people cannot read or write, physical and sexual violence against women and children run rampant, and "survival mode" is so deeply engrained in their way of life.
Some of our children came from these waters. Without us, they would not survive in this community.
"It was the first time I visited this area, where girls like little L. was rescued from. It's really a sight to be seen - makeshift shacks floating above the water made of rotting plywood and sheet metal no bigger than 200 square feet. Each family averages 10 children, though most of them drown in the lake. There exists little sense of grief however, since they just continue to have more children. The families can't read or write and the children just spend their days walking around their little lot under the hot sun, trying not to fall in. The mothers and fathers fish for a living and would make $5 USD per day if lucky. Sexual abuse against children seems like a incurable disease disease in impoverished communities like this, but many families just keep quiet, while the children don't know any better. I can't describe this sadness I feel having entered a place with little hope and a lot of despair. My light is L., who was given a second chance and the opportunity to thrive and succeed. She's even ranked 4th overall in her grade 2 class! I like to think that if we can save one life, then everything else is secondary." - Angela (OBV Canada President)