Cambodian Children: Poor, Perseverant


Photo by Sarah Dixon.

Sarah Dixon, Staff Writer

We walked down the dirt road, all thirty-five of us trying to embrace the pounding rain as it seeped through the interior of our filthy running shoes. With each step taken, my lungs grew heavy from breathing in the warm damp air as I looked up into the sky of Southern Asia. Through the canopy of trees paving the street, the rain streaked my face. I took notice to all the little details thinking to myself: I’m really here, I’m in Cambodia.

Throughout my two week experience in Cambodia, I gained knowledge of the importance of perspective. Going into a third world country like Cambodia, you’re bound to gain personal experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

While we were there, there were many learning opportunities and humbling lessons that were taught, such as seeing poverty first hand, and not giving the people who live in a third world environment enough credit for how much they endure. We don’t recognize how much they are put through. Our purpose of going to the Cambodian village was to fix up a beat down elementary school. Although that by itself was hard work that paid off, getting to know the kids and what they went through and seeing a different culture completely is what personally influenced me the most.

For example, when we first got there, our interactions with the children were merely just basic games to get comfortable around each other. The first game we played was duck-duck-goose. As simple as that game is, it was played on what felt like a battlefield of debris from the construction that was going on from the school being built next door, with concrete blocks displaced around the playground and shards of broken glass in various areas. The Cambodian kids ran through it as if nothing was there, and they didn’t have shoes on. I remember very distinctly a little girl tripping over a cement block and it had ripped her toenail clean off, as it bled she didn’t shed a tear. All she did was brush it off and wrap it with a leaf from a nearby tree and began to run around playing on it again. That was in stark contrast to an experience I had a few days later. I had just gotten off of an elephant that had taken me up a hill by one of the famous Angkor Wat temples. As I walked down the hilll among other Americans that were visiting the temples, there was a child about the same age as the girl who fell who was holding the hands of both of his parents as he walked down the hill. While walking, he stumbled but never quite fell, but he cried as if he had fallen down the mountain entirely and his father carried him the rest of the way down.

This experience gave me a deserved amount of respect for what those Cambodian children go through, both physically and emotionally. They teach themselves to be tough oppsed to the typical American child who isn’t happy with the iPhone 4, but wants the iPhone 5 because “it’s cool”, opposed to a poverty stricken child of the same age who makes the most of a pipe-cleaner.

For me, this experience alone gave me a sense of perspective of what these kids must go through living in such harsh and unforgiving conditions.