I wished to deepen my faith through a mission and through self-sacrifice by living simply and sharing my skills. I immersed myself in a local community. I am responsible for the ethical dimensions of development projects. I was sent on mission in the province of Mondolkiri, during the rainy season. It is a poor and backwards region, located to eastern Cambodia. I stayed at authentic villages, where the people have kept the punong values and where most of the inhabitants work in fields.
I taught English to children in kindergarten, in primary school and to professors of the schools of Bousra and Dak Dam. I made a video to promote the construction of a church in Bousra. The shooting took place during mass, catechism and English lessons.
Weekly garbage collections
I conducted the development of a touristic project which is built on the promotion of the culture and local bunong ethnic group. It was about proposing jobs to people who are poor, but happy to share their daily lives. The objective of the project was to improve the level of education of the inhabitants of the region by financially helping the schools and the parish of Dak Dam, all this while making them aware of the importance of protecting the environment.
I installed recycling centers in the schools and the villages where I teached English. I built wooden trash cans for selective sorting and I organised weekly selective garbage collections in the streets around the school. The children of the primary school are especially happy to help me in this task. It is an activity that is out of the ordinary and helps in the education of young people. I decided to create this project because the region is full of litter, such as bottles and soda cans. Without a care the people throw things on the ground, or burn wastes. It is of great importance to participate in the protection of the environment and limit the visual pollution of the villages. I convinced Father François to use the funds collected in the touristic project to install water filters in the schools, in order to reduce the consumption of plastic bottles.
In the indigenous villages, the reception of tourists is not easy. It is difficult to make oneself understood when one does not master the local dialect. There is no dictionary to this day, so we must hope that the natives welcoming the tourists speak English and Khmer.
The transmission of values
I was touched by the complicity of the families who came to discover the indigenous village of Dak Dam. The tourists played along with the game of collecting garbage during their forest hikes. They also participated in the construction of football cages and trash cans made of bamboo. I organised activities for the men and their sons (cutting bamboo in the forest), and for the women and their daughters (teaching English and gym, and learning to weave scarves). These activities reinforced the ties between parents and their children. I observed the transmission of values. I did my best to make sure that the tourist visits would be beneficial to everyone and that it would not disturb the balance of this village.
This mission required a meticulous organisation. Logistics were important, since I had to combine English lessons four days a week in two villages located 60 km from each other, promote the touristic project on the social networks, and create an environment that would be adapted to the welcoming of tourists.
I had three places of residence and moved, between my different pied-a-terres, by motorcycle, bicycle and car with Father François. I slept four days per week at Bousra, one day per week at the Marist Brothers Center where I had the good fortune of having a washing machine and Wifi at my disposal. Two days per week, I stayed at the church of Dak Dam. I liked my travels on bicycle since it allowed me to be in contact with the local population. Sometimes, I would stop to impovise an English lesson, or teach the benefits of recycling. I had to plan my travels in function of the rain. It was not easy. I have already arrived at my destination full of mud. From my very first day, I had to face this difficulty. I shook heaven and earth to quickly obtain clean pants and teach my English lessons.
I decided on my own to pick up bottles and cans at 6 in the morning. I decided to do this for the good of the village. Next, I invited the schoolchildren to help me once per week. This collection was a way for me to show the locals that it is not respectful towards God’s Creation to throw things on the ground. I built trash cans out of wood and bamboo. Next, I asked a carpenter to build the trash cans. The inhabitants were happy of this project. Maybe it will change there view on waste disposal ? I am satisfied with my mission. Managing my time table was sometimes difficult, but I wished to do my utmost to improve the daily lives of the population.
Antoine Sarraf, volontaire MEP