Airline miles are great for many different reasons. Sometimes they get you first class seats to Europe and other times they get you places like The Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump in Cambodia.
Located between the Killing Fields and downtown Phnom Penh, Stung Meanchey is where ALL the garbage of the capital city of Phnom Penh is deposited. We made our way through a back entrance, through small “streets” lined with shacks. One building housed what looked to be a school. Children peered through the fence with amazement that two foreigners just walked by. The garbage dump is the size of several city blocks and the piles of garbage were like mountains. The locals call it “Smoky Mountain” because it is always smoldering from the methane gas that is given off by the rotting garbage. The whole dump is literally on fire from below. Small children of only 2 years old walk around naked. No shoes. Nothing. Yet they still smile. The bananas and water are appreciated and we were met with many thanks as we make our way along a path of mud, garbage, and flies. Once word had gotten out about us, small children could be seen coming from afar. We had just enough and luckily didn’t have to say “No” or “Sorry” to any one.
The people that live here search for anything of value, anything that can be recycled and sold again. The small children run around and play, but we saw 6 and 7 year olds working. They carried bags of plastic bottles back to their “home”. By home we mean makeshift shacks built right on top of the garbage plateaus. The average income per person here is around $1 USD a day.
We gave out food to nearly 30 people that day for about $10 USD. Each and every one of them had a smile on their face. They know no different. This is what life has given them.