One evening last week Narla and I headed into the squatters village on his motorbike to meet with a man that sells herbal medicine. I had an editor interested in such things and wanted to check it out before sending a guest out to see it. The squatters village sits behind Journeys Within and JWOC and really started growing when we first moved to Siem Reap seven years ago. Those living in the squatters village all have stories of why they’re there, each one seemingly sadder than the next…a sick husband in hospital and everything sold to pay for his care, only for him to die and leave the family destitute; a youngest brother who can’t farm along with his older brothers because there just isn’t enough land to go around; drugs, alcohol, depression. JWOC has a presence here, many of the squatters are our microfinance project loan recipients and clean water project wells dot the community offering at least clean water in otherwise squalid conditions.
As we drove through I was again shocked by the trash, the amount of children and the general chaos that comes from too many people living in too small a space. I can’t imagine a childhood spent here. Narla and I left the village agreeing that for the over 3000 people now living here, life was bleak.
The next day happened to be my first Music and Movement class in the new JWOC library. I have had my kids in music classes since they were little…kinder music, mommy and me music time, nursery music and so on. Each time we were back in the States we enrolled in a different class and I loved to see my little ones clapping to the beat, dancing with scarves or pretending to be a kitty cat. I had always wanted to run a music and dance class at JWOC, but we hadn’t had the space. Now we do!
Throughout the class I recognized kids from the squatters village. Some had ripped clothes, others had filthy clothes, a few of the little ones had no pants, but for one hour none of it mattered, we just played.