We were looking for a project for our monthly Community Service. One of our students friends told us about an old lady and her husband who lived in a small broken cottage. We went there on day and spent the whole morning visiting and asking about their situation and we also confirmed with head leader in village to get more details. It is real miserable life of them.
Her name is Mean. She is 70 years old. She was born in Sreat village. It’s about 25 kilometres from Seim Reap city. Her husband’s name is Hieng. He is 69 years old. They have been a couple since the Pul Pot regime, and they have no children. Actually, Mr. Hieng is a disabled but not from birth. About 20 years ago the problem started and he can’t walk. Mrs Mean remembered that, one time, her husband got a serious illness - she invited people who know to treat the disease to help but they were not a professional doctor. After grandfather Hieng was cured of his illness his his legs would not work and he couldnt use them again. From then on, Mrs Mean has to do all the work, and she has to work every day because her husband can’t do anything - he just stays in their cottage.
Let move a little bit back to her children. As I told that they have no children, but they had a son that, they got from other family which were poorer than them. He lived with Mean and Hieng when he was child. When he was a teenager he asked to live in Siem Reap town so he could work and earn some money for his family. After 3-4 months they had not heard from him or recieved any money, and he had not come back to visit them. It was about 6-7 years after Mean & her husband heard that he was very sick, so they tried any way to find him and bring him back home. It was the second time that they sold their lands to get money. Month to month their son didn’t get better and he died. The Head Leader of the village informed us that he got HIV, but the family didn’t say any things to us. Perhaps, Mean & Hieng didn’t know about this problem. Many people in Cambodia at Mean & Hiengs age didn’t know about HIV issues.
When we first met Mean & Hieng they were living on the side of the road because they don’t have any more land to live on. The cottage was built by villagers who wanted to help them because they saw that their life was very hard, but it was broken again and the couple had to use blue plastic to cover the roof. Mean works very hard - she sells a little bit of snacks as candies, small pack of noodles, other treats for kids in school. It is very small amount to provide her family as she has to pay every few days for a kilo of rice, food, medicine and other essential items. Sometimes she has to pay for motor taxi to purchase all the things to sell because the market is located far from her home. Fortunately, there are other villagers who go to market, so they sometimes take her with t hem. They already knew that they have nothing, and they try to help as much as possible. Some days she also doesn’t have enough food to eat or nothing to eat too.
We would like to help ‘our grandparents’ in 3 ways.
1. Build them a cottage
We would like to build them a better house for them. I have already contacted the commune leader’s assistant to build them a nearby cottage same place in a side street off the main road. He’s really appreciative of us if we can help because they are waiting for someone to help the old grandparents too. He said that we can use some area in one of the side streets.
2. Build a Wood & Palm Leaves toilet
It is additional problem that I didn’t mention in background. As Mr. Heing is a disabled he can’t sit in wheel chair. He just stays in the cottage, and he can’t do anything. As you knew he can’t move far place to place, and his wife can’t move him either. It means they have been living in the one area with the toilet, eating place, sleeping, and another in same home. It is very uncomfortable & unhealthy place for them, but they have no choice. According to this concern we would like provide them a toilet. It is a simple made from wood with palm leaves.
As you see that both of them don’t earn much money. They just only get money from a little bit snacks, and their income is not enough. Moreover, they have no food to eat.
It is a huge project and we have never spent this much money for Community Service Project before. However, it will have more value for us for helping weak people in society. Honestly, writing and seeing what the pity they are in. My tears drop down because it is a real story of their life. We can imagine how hard it because we are from poor families.
On the 18th of January 2015 all CRST students made their way to the grandparents house and everyone was eager to build the house. We divided into 4 teams - first team was making the walls, second team was making the toilet and the body of the house, the third went to cut bamboo to use and the last was cooking lunch for everyone. We all worked very hard and helped eachother.
There were many villagers and two Univeristy students who are not related to CRST who came to help us. They also bought some food and soft drinks for our team. It was a wonderful day for this activity and for helping our society.