The Right to Play at the Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump

Jody Hanson, Ph.D / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Kids just wanna’ have fun.

PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) –  The dump at Stung Meanchey is divided into various subdivisions. The road divides at a manicured estate with a well-presented house in the middle of the yard. A right turn goes to one area of the old dump; a turn to the left another. In this section, the tin and rickety shacks are build wall-to-wall and the concept of a backyard does not exist. Any open space is ankle deep in garbage.
 
One morning the bull-dozers arrived and leveled the hovels on the left of the road. Now there is a storage building with a wall around it in the same space. As squatters, the people have no rights other than to salvage as much as they can before their shack is knocked down.
 
The children in this section of the dump do not have anywhere to play. Occasionally they kick a plastic bottle or a limp ball around  the road, but there is the danger of motorcycles and big trucks hitting them.
Down in the Dumps (DITD) – an ad hoc non-profit that relies on donations from Canada, Australia and Germany – decided to build a small playground for the kids. Lay Vichika, the on-the-ground contact — http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/1649/women-with-clout-lay-vichika/ — organized the project.
 
“It is good,” said Nick (Sann Bun Nit), the official translator for DITD. “She will get the parents to help clean up the area. They should assist because it is for their kids to use.” Sand was hauled in, a wooden base built and a culvert put in to divert the water.
 
The second stage of the project was to get a slide, a swing and some goal posts for soccer games. Nick sourced a  brightly painted swing for $250. “The slide was too expensive, $400,” he announced. Depending on the size of the kids there is enough for four to six on the  swings. 
 
It takes up most of the room on the seven by seven meter playground.
 
According to Vichika, the swings are used non-stop from morning to late into the night. The play-ground is right next to her breakfast business which morphs into a store after the rice runs out in the morning.
“Sometimes there are as many as 35 kids waiting. They don’t want to go home for lunch because they will lose their seat. And sometimes there are fights and squabbles that I have to go over and sort out.”
 
“The kids are very excited about the swing,” said Nick. “It is an opportunity for them to have some fun. Life at the dump is very hard, so it is good to see them laughing and enjoying themselves.”
 
The total cost for the project? $520. The price of the joy it has brought? Immeasurable.
 

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