Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Volunteer Development Children's Association

         I have been having an amazing time traveling through SE Asia. The region is beautiful and historic. The people are kind and humble. Poverty is everywhere here. You can't avoid it but no where have I seen anything so heart wrenching as the Siem Reap dump.                                                                                                                                                         I met Togh Main while staying for a few days in Siem Reap, home to Angkor Wat. He ran an English school and I wanted to make myself feel good by going to teach an English class. As it turns out he and his NGO, Volunteer Development Children's Association(VDCA) do so much more then teaching a few kids English.                                                                                                                Togh was a Buddhist monk for 11 years. During that time he started an after school program for local children to learn English. He wanted to not only give them the opportunity to learn but to keep them off the streets. Cambodia can be a very harsh place for children. Child sex trafficking is rampant here as is drug abuse. HIV/AIDS is the highest in SE Asia.                                                                                                                                                Eventually the little school expanded from the monastery to proper class rooms nearby. Between 430 and 730 every school night hundreds of children come to learn English and play in a safe environment.                                                                                                                                       After Togh successfully got this school going he decided to go back to his home village and start a school there as well. But this village, on the outskirts of Siem Reap wasn't just any village but was the sight of the local dump. It was soon obvious to him that just a school would not be enough. He had to get the children out of the dump. The after school English lessons grew into kind of a pre-K school for the smaller children that were yet to be in public school full time. Then came the nursery for the babies. That wasn't enough either. He wanted to give these people the skills better their lives, so he started a fish farm and is getting into raising ducks and chickens to teach the others in this village these skills so they can start their own businesses. Realizing that some of the families in the dump literally had no homes he decided to build them homes on the grounds of the nursery. This is still not enough for Togh. He has plans to expand the fish farm and would like to start some kind of manufacturing operation for the people to be able to earn a living away from the dump. His dream is to go to the dump someday and see no one there...                                                                                   Having traveled all over the world, I am usually pretty leery of NGOs. I have seen them do more damage then good. Over educated, white guys in Land Rovers trying to impose western ideology on the natives. This is not the case with VDCA. It was started by a local man, a monk at the time, who wanted to improve the lives of the children around him. It is still run by him, employees local people and doing it an away that is in tune with the local customs and culture.                                                                                                                                                      I have looked closely at this operation. He is not paying himself and his staff huge salaries. His whole operation runs for under $15,000 a year. He doesn't drive a fancy car. I drove the 20km to the rural village on the back of his motor scooter. If my photos have moved you and if you would like to see your money have a huge impact on people that truly deserve it then I would strongly encourage you to donate to VDCA. No amount is too small. One dollar buys a pair of shoes for a child. Fifty dollars pays for the school electricity for a month. Three thousand dollars builds a house for a family sleeping under a tarp in the dump. Here is VDCA's website   Check them out. If you would like to help just click the donate button. It's connected to PayPal. Feel free to ask Togh any questions you may have. Here's his Facebook page. I found him very forthcoming and he loves to share his vision. Thanks for reading all of this and if you decide to donate, thank you from the bottom of my heart....

Can you imagine being born at a dump?
You don't see those kind of smiles at the dump.

Beautiful happy children at the VDCA school.

The VDCA nursery. In the background are a few of the houses that VDCA has built for homeless families.

VDCA director Togh Main visits with one of the families living at the dump site.

The dump workers dig through the trash to collect food scraps thrown out by the tourist hotels. They sell this scraps as pig slop but young unattended children have been known to eat from these piles.

This is his playground....

Adults and children work at the dump site.

Eating lunch while surrounded by trash.

Although this family has chosen to keep their children with them while working at the dump, thanks to VDCA, they don't have to.

VDCA project manager, Vuthy, talking to a family that lives at the dump site.

Several hundred people live and work in the Siem Reap dump.

Is this his future?

Togh and the VDCA project manager looking at future plans for the fish farm.
Togh explaining his vision for the fish farm.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rustin thank you for you wonderful Blog, we have been long time supporters of Togh and like you were moved by his love and spirit. I do hope you words encourage others to know there are those n the world of deep integrity who honor the financial support they are given.
    Best wishes with your ongoing journey's.
    King Regards
    Jonathan Spark