Early morning on top of the Royal Hotel over looking the river and the Kings house, not a bad way to start.
So we spent the majority of the day at the Mango Tree Learning Center. A few hours installing 10 new computers, fluff and buff the older ones and show off the new METL kit to the staff and director. Oh, we sweated….a lot. I don’t mean a trickle of sweat here or there I mean we drenched every fiber of clothing. Totally worth it though.
After the techy stuff we ha a great meal prepared by the community members. The story here was both gut wrenching and powerfully inspiring all at once. After being forcefully removed from their homes, twice, they rebuilt a community here. I say forcefully but it does not even come close to describing the way things happened. Imagine this: you are in bed, after a long hot day working in the rice fields for a few pennies. At 6 AM tear gas canisters begin raining down in the neighborhood. By 7 AM or so bulldozers are leveling your home. You leave with maybe a pot or a sack or a handfull of clothes. Now, imagine it…..again. Yet here they are, again, building a community that relies on each member to be a success.
One story: Jhim has a family. To feed them he learned to lay brick. For much of his life he was told by so many he did not matter. He saw his family go hungry. He felt defeated. During a community meeting in the new location it was asked if anyone knew how to build a wall to enclose a new computer lab for the kids. He did. He helped create a loaction for the new computers. Jhim has the foresight and understanding that he may only know how to lay a few bricks but in doing that he sees that his kids, his family will have the access to an education. To be able to learn computer skills. He knows by placing those bricks he was a part of a plan that will give his family and his community something few had.
I have shared with many people I take these trips on how I think of all of the things we do as a puzzle. If you go somewhere and help install a computer, help build a wall, or just play with some kids, you are placing one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. You won’t see the full picture when you leave. You may go back many times but you may never see the completed picture. Each of us places one piece and while we can not walk away seeing the entire plan, we can know we helped build the image. That can be hard to accept sometimes. when you see so much that needs change and so much that could be done, you have to walk away knowing you can not “fix it”. Knowing you may never see the solution enacted. trusting that the next person will place another piece of the puzzle. Trusting…..that is hard for people. We always want to say “I see it is broke, I will fix it. How much? Where to? How long?” but the real answers are always so much more complicated.
We left the learning center after wringing out our clothes and made a 3 hour drive to Pursat Province. The location of our next few days of work. During the drive we had time to think and talk and stare. My dad shared stories of his time in Vietnam and differences he sees now, nearly 50 years later. I heard things today I have never heard him say. Things I never knew.
So we sit here in the hotel after a great dinner out. Great food that I will have no chance of ever pronouncing correctly. Watching the geckos scurry around. Exhausted and humbled. Know, trusting, that the small piece of the puzzle we placed today will someday show a full image of the deletion of poverty, an image that none of us may ever see. But we trust none the less.