Tabitha Update - August 2011

Dear friends and partners,

Yesterday I visited one of our new project areas – Preah Vihear – infamous for its border clashes with Thailand.  It was quite a trip. We left very early in the morning – our first hour was in darkness – little traffic but good speed. When the sun finally arose – we were met with great beauty – first, early floods in a number of areas and then several hundreds of miles of rice fields – in all my 18 years here – I have never seen rice fields in August. Srie and I marveled at the life it represented – at the hope and dreams – at the unusual changes in weather that made this happen.

We talked about Chirieng – our manager in Preah Vihear. We had opened the project in May – every Friday, Chirieng would come to the office and regale all of us with his stories – stories of how quiet it was, how the trees were so big – how afraid he was of both. Despite all his fears, he and his staff had made great progress – 200 families were already enrolled and it was time for me to come and see.

As we entered the province, the scenery started to change – I had last been here in 1993 – at that time the Khmer Rouge were in charge of the road. It was a dirt track then, with thousands of internally displaced people living on the sides. We came to a Khmer Rouge check point – we needed their permission to travel on. It was a scary meeting, one in which I sat silent – eventually they gave us a pass but warned us that the road had landmines on each side. Yesterday, the road was tarmac ked and there are no land mines – at least none that I know of. We passed through impenetrable jungle – with each passing mile, there were less and less people until we had the road to ourselves.  Chirieng talk of how quiet things were - started to sink in.

We met him at the village where the work was – he introduced us to family after family – the marks of poverty were clear – most families struggled to eat each day –crops are only grown once a year and are dependent on rain – the rains hadn’t come with their normal strength - many of the youngest children had no clothes –many of the dads, he said, left early every morning to try and find work, any work that would feed their families. They are not lazy he said – there just isn’t enough work. The vast majority of the families had large pieces of rice land – 2-3 hectares – but they were 3 kilometers away through the jungle – we need to put in field wells. He talked of a village where the chief wanted us to work but the village was inaccessible even by motorbike – Chirieng told the chief, first a road and then we would come – the road will be done within 3 months.

The first field wells will be dug next Monday – Chirieng took us to one of the families who would receive the well. Teav and his wife and  children greeted us with much joy – very unusual in a new project. They live in a small hut surrounded by jungle bush – over the past 6 weeks Teav and his wife had cleared a hectare of land – reclaimed it from the surrounding jungle – unbelievably hard work – they had planted rice but it was wilting – the rice would die without water – they had cleared land for vegetables and built a shack to raise pigs – they had dug a small pond to raise frogs and eels (another new one for me)– and then Teav spoke of his latest dream – when we sell our crops – we will raise chickens!

It was their happiness that struck me – their pride in the work of their hands – their faith in how their dreams would come true when the field well was installed. As we left – they started work on their second hectare of bush – no complaints – just pure, hard work and faith.

We arrived in Preah Vihear town – it’s a bit of the Wild West atmosphere except for one thing – there are no people – no cars, no motorbikes. At the restaurant where we ate – one other table had people. We walked down the main road just looking what there was – it was so quiet that when a car came near us – we never saw nor heard it. I could understand where Chirieng’s fears were coming from. I asked him how he liked the work, was he not homesick – he is our staff from Takeo – no, he said – they are so poor and I know I can help them – I am excited to watch as their lives change. I can do so much here.

On the long road back home, I mused as we went from a deserted provincial town, on a road with no traffic, through provinces that were full of life and food to the mayhem of Phnom Penh. My God is so good. How blessed I am to have so many staff like Chirieng – staff who give up so many comforts and friends to work with people whom they know they can help. The faiths they have in those changes are what their lives are all about. I am so humbled by each one of them. I am so humbled by each of you, whose faith in all of us allow us to hunger and wait for the changes in so many.

Janne



Janne’s blog

Janne Ritskes, de van oorsprong Nederlandse oprichtster van Tabitha Foundation, bericht regelmatig vanuit Cambodja (Engelstalig).

> Zie ook de Blogspot Janne’s Journey (opent in nieuw venster).

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