October and November 2015
(December – April still to come!)
There was great excitement this week when an ox cart arrived in the village… finally, the new desks have arrived – they fit perfectly between the pillars of the house above. I took two classes and wanted to give the kids as much chance to speak and hear english as they don’t usually have contact with a native speaker, so we did body parts with lots of questions and answers followed by a few rounds of ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes!)’ It was a lot of fun as the rounds of singing got faster and faster, so lovely to hear their laughter as they are usually so shy.
My good friend Chhorvoan, who works at Angkor Wat – an ancient historic temple complex told me about the 20 families who live just out of sight from the tourists inside the preserved area. Families of six or seven survive on what seems like thin air, truly they have nothing and their one roomed houses are extremely basic. Because they can’t afford uniforms, books or other luxuries, the kids can’t go to school.
So we decided to go there today (motorbike is the only motorised transport possible) laden down with 20kg of washing powder, 80 bars of soap, 100 toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Virtually all the kids had either a high fever or colds and most of them had filthy clothes on, if at all. We gave each family their allocation of goodies and then set about showing them how to use the toothbrushes. But due to the problems of littering, (and no rubbish collection) we unwrapped everything first and packaged all the waste paper and plastics up to take away with us.
We discovered none of the villagers including the adults had cleaned their teeth before, so we unpacked all the toothbrushes and after a brief demonstration, everyone had a go…
The kids all bunched together giggling and enjoying the new experience and the adults more shyly faced the bushes. Everyone soon got the hang of it and I am hopeful at least some of them will keep it up – because its new and there’s no one to motivate them, its unlikely they will all do it regularly.
I noticed there was a lot of tooth decay which is different from the really rural kids who don’t come into contact with sugar apart from palm sugar. I can only presume the state of their teeth is from tourists giving the kids sweets (please don’t do that!). There were a lot of bleeding gums, so Chhorvoan explained the benefits of clean teeth and healthy gums.
We then got all the children without shoes to have their feet measured with our homemade foot measurer (a tape measure and two bricks) because I was picking up all the children to place on the measure, I could feel many of them had high fevers. I also realised just how bad they smelt from lack of washing or clean clothes. I promised to return the following weekend with flip flops for all and a movie show, so long as they all scrubbed up!