Thank You, Cambodia, for the Opportunities We Had – by Midori / カンボジア、感謝を込めて – 五嶋みどり

Thank You, Cambodia, for the Opportunities We Had
Blog entry by Midori

We left Cambodia after two weeks, on December 27. It was a wonderful series of experiences, and it was indeed so special for me to have been able to be there after 12 years. I was mesmerized by the growths of the urban areas, particularly Phnom Penh. The city that was not crowded at all with vehicles is now experiencing congestion issues. Shopping malls are being built as are many other new buildings and hotels. Excellent coffee chains are everywhere, from Cambodian original brands to those imported from Vietnam, the US, Thailand, the UK, etc. Restaurants of all origins and special interests (vegan, gluten-free, organic, etc.) can be found, as can various types of Khmer cuisines. In most of the country, the water produced is now drinkable from the tap, meeting standards set by WHO (questions still remain in the standards of how water is being stored and its path to different households). There was not even single power outage during our stay. In school classrooms, I saw white boards, desks, books, etc. In a classroom, I saw students generally in the same age group; in hospitals, better lighting, upgraded treatment conditions, and good air circulation. What were diagnoses 12 years ago such as malnutrition and dysentery are now symptoms to be treated.

Development also comes with its negative sides or certain conditions that remain a stubborn status quo. Illegalized, nonetheless, I saw many examples of selling and buying of supposedly sexual activities, with involvement from children half the height of their “clients” or their “bosses” or “owners”. Plastic can be found everywhere, both used or unused, as well as wasted and tossed. People living below poverty line are still relatively high in number as we have witnessed in the slums and dump sites where there is no electricity, running water, or proper safe housing.

There is a high number of NGOs (one of the highest number of NGOs per capita in the world) in Cambodia, not all of them currently active or without controversy. Some of the NPOs and NGOs are also experiencing a passage of time, with the founders getting ready to pass on the work and the organization without an obvious new leadership to take over. Not all of the children growing up in children’s communities are well-adjusted to assimilate into modern-day Cambodian society, not particularly able to use Khmer language efficiently, for example.

We have now all returned to our respective home countries and will have the time to reflect on our discoveries and learning in Cambodia. My last visit in Phnom Penh was to the Tuol Seng Genocide Museum, just a few hours prior to my flight departure. In the former school building were the evidence of extreme tragedy with sampling of atrocities of human evilness and violence, caused by greed for power of control. A chilling and raw reminder of human capacity as well as the resilience that is now re-building and developing Cambodia.

Between the 24th and the 27th of December, out visits included*:
Angkor Children’s Hospital: children’s hospital in Siem Reap
Red Cross – Siem Reap Physical Rehabilitation Center (PRC): center to assist those who have been victims of landmines.
CCDO Cambodian Community Dream Organization: organization working to improve living conditions in villages surrounding Siem Reap.
KnK Battambang: organization supporting at-risk youths, providing living quarters, job training, education
National Borey for Children: a national institution for children with disabilities
Helping Hand: helps and sponsors children in the Phnom Penh slums with education support and scholarships
Japanese Weekend School: school for supplementary Japanese language education at elementary levels
SHE Rescue Home: safe haven for children and young adults who are victims or at risk of rape, human trafficking, and prostitution

Cultural Exchanges at:
University of Fine Arts Department of Music (Western Classical and Traditional): performance exchange with the students of the music department; a short masterclass by ICEP Quartet for a student ensemble from the University.
MEDHA: all-women drumming Troup: performance exchange; discussion of respective art forms and their challenges; discussion of respective outreach efforts, activities, and goals

Cultural-Learning Visits/Experiences:
Tuol Seng Genocide Museum
Dance show at Cambodian Living Arts

*Earlier sites visited are listed in the blog, “Recap of the Last Few Days”, uploaded on December 21, 2019
We send you warm wishes for 2020, with hopes for a safer and more peaceful living situations for all. Blogging will reconvene in June with ICEP Japan.


Photo: Helping Hand





カンボジアには多くのNGO(カンボジアはNGOの数が世界で最も多い国のうちの一つ)が存在し、それらの中には、現在活動中のものもあれば、問題を抱えているものもあります。設立者が明らかに時間の経過によって、仕事と組織を引き継ぐ新しいリーダーシップを見つける準備段階にさしかかっているのもその一つです。それに、(NPO NGOなどの)共同体で育つすべての子どもたちが、例えばクメール語をうまく使えるかというだけでなく、外部との生活のスタンダードに違いがあって現代のカンボジア社会に十分に順応できるとは限らないのです。


レッド・クロス ― シェムリアップ身体リハビリテーションセンター(PRC):地雷の被害者を支援するセンター

王立芸術大学 音楽学部(西洋クラシック音楽及び伝統音楽):音楽学部の学生たちと互いに演奏を披露。学生アンサンブルのためにICEPカルテットによる短時間のマスタークラスも実施。