LUJ Student Mara Peppmüller Reports on Challenging Conditions in Cambodia
On August 17th, I had the chance to visit the project of COMPED (short for Cambodian Education and Waste Management Organization), in Battambang, which is about a three-hour drive southwest of Angkor Wat. COMPED works in cooperation with Friedensdorf International and TKG (Thüringisch-Kambodschanische Gesellschaft e.V).
The COMPED project is situated at the Battambang dumpsite, with its primary goal being the enhancement of the quality of life and working conditions for waste pickers. Additionally, it aims to increase their income and offer supplementary education opportunities for their children.
Children are offered English education by volunteers, along with involvement in projects designed to impart valuable physical skills for their future. COMPED not only tries to provide the children with the opportunity to acquire essential abilities but, by doing this, they are allowing them a chance to experience a more normalized childhood, rather than assisting their parents in scavenging and selling trash from the dump site.
Even though it sounds normal for many of us to ‘experience childhood,’ for these children it's a luxury. We have to keep in mind that, within Battambang City, approximately eighty families are engaged in waste picking both along the city's roads and directly at the dump site. Their primary occupation revolves around the sorting of marketable waste, which constitutes their sole source of daily income.
Furthermore, due to their extremely limited income, which rarely exceeds $50 per family per month, many of them face challenges in consistently sending their children to school. Often, these children must—instead of earning an education—assist their parents in waste picking, while the younger ones, who are not yet able to contribute, have to wait at the dumpsite for their parents to return from work.
Visiting this dumpsite made me realize how grateful we all should be for having a proper living. Nonetheless, it is astonishing how welcoming and friendly the families were when I walked along the dump site. Even though their living conditions were, to me, so horrific, everyone welcomed visitors with a smile and wanted to show us their living conditions.
One moment I will always remember was the woman in the picture above who was so excited to show us her newborn and how proud she was.
Nowadays, however, such living conditions shouldn’t exist!
About the Writer: Mara Louisa Peppmüller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is currently a junior at Lakeland University Japan majoring in Business Administration. Mara has also written extensively about women’s rights in Afghanistan. She has volunteered her time with several international organizations, one of which her mother, Claudia Peppmüller, belongs to, a German NPO called “Peace Village /ドイツ国際平和村 .”