Saturday, June 12, 2010

Feeding Siem Reap's rubbish collecting children

Thursday 10 June marked the day Mavis' Touch A Life (TAL) food programme opened at her house near Wat Po Lanka. Previously Mavis would cook food and deliver to residents at the very poor Mondul 3 district. She has since rented a house, for people to drop in for meals, so providing a soup-kitchen like service.

They were up since 6am to buy and prepare the food. The "ait-jai" (rubbish collecting) children around the area had been told to come today at noon. They were waiting outside the gate at 11. The children must have been hungry. Mavis' landlord is such a good guy and obviously believes in what she is doing. His whole family came to help out with the cooking.

The meals are vegetarian, with protein from eggs and toufu. The fried eggs with long beans would turn out to be a hit with the children...

Not so the morning glory fried with garlic, fish sauce, sugar and salt. Later, Kagna explained to me for poor people in Cambodia, morning glory (or kangkong as we call it in Singapore and Malaysia) is a staple dish because it is so cheap (500 riels to 1000 riels a kg or US$0.12 to US$0.25 a kg). So that's why the children didn't eat it - they were probably sick of it! A lesson for us - no more "tro-kun" in the future.

There was also vegetable soup, with carrots, winter melon, potatoes and onions, flavoured with vegetable seasoning and salt. Some of the children really liked the soup - but no one liked the onions... Here is my father (he's here for a visit) helping to scoop soup into individual bowls for the children.

The children who were waiting outside are finally allowed in at noon. But what are they doing?

Washing their hands! Mavis would like them to learn and practise good hygiene habits and has provided clean water and soap.

A feast! A total of 17 kids turned up. Not bad for the first day. We told the children to spread the word. TAL hopes to provide meals for the ait-jai adults as well.

The beautiful TAL house

where the meals are served.

This boy is just 8 years old and is forced to collect rubbish. A warm meal at lunch time is much appreciated. Sometimes they get packed food from home which turns cold by lunch time.  Mostly, they will have to fend for themselves, perhaps buying snacks - so long as they bring home the expected amount of money every day.

This cute girl is the youngest of the lot - only 6 years old, wearing an over-sized T-shirt. She was so happy. The kids are so sweet and incredibly polite and helpful. Mavis says the children in our countries are different, not as sweet and obedient. I guess children in developed countries are used to having it easy and can be spoilt.

This 12 year old boy has barely finished swallowing his food and is going for seconds! He was so hungry. He ate the most!

After eating the children help clean up - they wash their individual plates, first in a bucket of rice water with dish washing liquid added (it is amazing - the rice water really helps remove grease).

The second pail is clean water in which they dip the plates, and then finally in a third pail.

The weather is so hot, some of the boys took the opportunity to have a cool shower.

Helping my friend!

Thank you TAL! We will be back (TAL serves food 3 times a week)

Off to work again. The sacks on both sides of the bicycle are for putting the cans/plastic bottles/cardboard the kids find which will then be sold on to a recycling centre).

Joom reap lia Mavis! Aw-koon chran! (bye bye Mavis, thank you very much!)

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