We’re often asked how the idea for the Taksenkangbloung Community Centre was born. There is no simple answer. It was an organic process that was never planned, but took shape and grew over several years. We’ve learned a lot along the way.
We first visited the village in 2010. It is located opposite the UNESCO world heritage site of Angkor Wat. We had spent the day visiting the temples and our tuk-tuk driver took us to the village to meet his family.
It became obvious very quickly that the village was experiencing deep disadvantage. Many children were begging at the nearby temples to help their families survive. There was disease everywhere and no running water. School was at the back of most people’s minds with mere survival being hard enough. Most of the village was living in poverty.
The most heartbreaking case was a family of 12 people. The family unit was complex, with three generations living in one tiny raised hut under a makeshift palm leaf roof. The roof was falling off, the floor had holes in it, and the hut could obviously provide very little protection against the unforgiving monsoons. The family often went hungry, with the adults suffering from alcohol addiction. They were sleeping wherever they could find a place; the tiny children often curled up on the side of the dirt track.
The adults had lived through the Khmer Rouge’s devastating genocide of the 1970s and, like so many, had succumbed to alcoholism to address the trauma and poverty they faced. The young children in this family started their day at 5am, begging at the Angkor temples as the tourists arrived for sunrise. They provided the family’s income, supplying their parents with the small amount of money required each day to buy cheap, locally-brewed rice wine to satisfy their addiction. The children would then spend the rest of the day playing around the temples and in the village, scavenging for food but often going without. They happily cared for each other and battled through the harsh realities of their situation without the support or care of their parents.
Our founders assisted this family by providing food packages through our friend who lived in the village. We were able to fund the rebuilding of the small hut and find other ways to improve the self-esteem and living standards of the children. Sadly, their mother lost her battle with addiction, passing away at home from liver disease. However, their father then stopped drinking alcohol altogether and is now caring for his children and grandchildren. He now has a vegetable garden, keeps poultry and takes pride in his family home. The family’s progress has been remarkable.
The four youngest children are participants in the day program. This family are the inspiration behind the centre.
This picture was taken just after the centre opened. The young lady in the centre, Ngek, is the mother of the baby and the young boy. The other children are her siblings.
The community centre was originally founded with the help of our friend. His efforts and insight were invaluable. While he has since moved on and passed the local directorship to Sothea, his input and influence remains invaluable.