As we climbed up the 800-something steps of the Dipsea, a father and two small children stepped past us, as they made the downhill trek to their school bus stop. The kids, well-dressed, carrying over-sized backpacks filled with books and lunch, talked about their plans for the day. The dad followed, watching their every step, mumbling an affirmation along the way – “Keep up the good work guys; you’re making great time today!”
I greeted them as they passed and said, “Hey, do you walk UP the steps everyday, after school?” One of the children said “Sometimes.” The dad chimed in, “Only when this mean old dad is home and I make them!” I said, “That is fantastic! You’re going to be so fit!” And the dad smiled and said, “Yes! That is what I keep telling them!”
We watched as they disappeared down the long flight of stairs and then continued on our way.
It dawned on me that this is simply something you would never see in Cambodia. In 2009, fewer than 20 percent of Cambodian families who lived outside of the cities had access to a toilet or clean water. At least one-third of the people lived on less than $1 a day. By 2010, 80 percent of Cambodia’s people remained desperately poor and barely educated. The situation has not changed much today.
As much as I’ve prepared, I realize that I have so much to learn. How can I be of service? What in the world can I do to help the children we will be serving? Their needs are so great!
In Joel Brinkley’s book, Cambodia’s Curse, he says: “Nine Cambodians out of ten may not hope, or care. But change is coming. Even for a nation lost in the past, the modern world encroaches, far more slowly than in most any other place, but inexorably still.”
Well perhaps our team will bring hope. As Brinkley says, “…for Cambodians, that’s more than anyone has offered in a very long time.”