I came to Cambodia with an open mind and an open heart, ready to learn and see all about a land rich in history that is as dark as it comes. What I knew of Cambodia before I came was that: Angelina Jolie made it famous in Tomb Raider; it was going to be hot; and they had a period known as the killing fields that was ruled by the Khmer Rouge(not really all I knew, but almost). Sad that when I look back at these facts, that I never took the time to learn more about Cambodia.
The most important thing I have learned since I arrived is that Cambodia is still a land stricken with so much corruption and poverty. The people are repressed by their own government and many souls have been broken into submission by the years and years of torture and sufferiing.
This is the country that will break your heart and fulfill your heart with all the things you never thought possible
My heart if forever changed by my experiences and the people that I have met here. This land is so very young. It young in its humanity and is trying so desperately yo get back on its feet after years and years of war and murder.
Our tour guide is a man named Vuttha. Described to me before I arrived as “Buddha reincarnated” and that is the optitomy of Vuttha. A 5’7man, stalky, and solid. With the kindest eyes and a radiating soul of kindness that surrounds his giant smile and bright eyes with a radiant glow. One would never think that he lived thorough the Khmer Rouge years and has endured so much poverty and life struggles. But he has, and he takes it in stride, as the kindest man I have ever grown to know. He takes such good care of us. He carries our bags, opens our waters and seems to genuinely care about our well being as he spends the next 3 weeks always from his newborn baby girl, two dogs and wife. He is amazing, and the best thing about Cambodia.
Vuttha was born in the late 1970’s near the end of the Khmer Rouge’s reign. He grew up when the country was trying to rebuild itself from the millions of murders, and all the genocide that occurred over those years of torture. He was raised in a village,outide of Siam Reap, small and like many of the others that still survive today. There is no running water, no waste system, no electricity, unless you can afford the MacGyvered car battery rig that supplies some light for a few hours at night. Cows plow the fields, and the people live off the land as best they can. They harvest what crops they can and grow rice for consumption; there is never enough for exportation or sale and survival. Vuttha grew up poor, in extreme poverty. He lived with his two brothers and one sister in a hut made by their own hands. It took him two weeks before he opened up a bit, and told me a little about his life. He remembers being so poor that he only got one small cup of rice a day to eat. One special occasion, like th big religious holidays his father would slaughter one chicken to be shared with his entire family to eat or for offering. Vuttha remembers that one year his father took him and his siblings to the market and his father sold some of their few chickens to the butcher in exchange for money that was then used to buy each child one new shirt for the school year. Vuttha shared with me much about the history of Camboia, including the time of the Khmer Rouge and beyond. Vuttha is an amazing wealth of knowledge! As a man who came from such oppressive beginnings, he is extremely intelligent and is trying to pay forward what he can to his people.
Vuttha works full time for a touring company called Buffalo Tours. It is a good company who pays fair wages, but it is actually better than most employers in Cambodia. He is one of two full time workers, but that does not mean what you think it means. As a full time employee, Vutta works when their are booked tours. He does not work when there is no tours. If he does not work,he does not get paid.
He supports his one sister, parents, his 3 nieces, 2 nephews and 4dogs in his home(less than 1% take “good” care of their animals, the rest are just tolerated. Not fed, given places to sleep to cared for). His two brothers are amiss. His mother is trying to recover from liver cirrhosis that has grown at an alarming rate. She was hospitalized from the sores, pain, not eating and her inhability to walk in May 2015. She traveled hours by bus to Thailand where was given some treatment that has bought her some time before the eminent end that results from this illness. There is no cure for cirrhosis.
Vuttha is not asking for anything. I am. I am asking for for anyone who reads this to donate something , anything will help, even a dollar. He is truly the most amazing human being I have ever come to know. His good will, his genuine heart and his plight to do more for his country and his people make him so much more than ordinary. He is amazing. Despite his own struggles and his own battles, he is willing to do so much for others, and is trying to help his people resist the extinction so many know will come if nothing is done to help the country. Cambodia needs more people like him. Hell, the world needs more people like him.
Please donate what you can or contact me for physical donations of clothing, etc. I will be back to Cambodia in December 2016.
Donations: Vuttha #fundsforvuttha