Armarlie, Helena, Jon and Leah and are all living in Mondulkiri Province, which is in southeastern Cambodia and borders on Vietnam. Several times on this trip we were close enough to the border to be able to see Vietnam in the distance. Because of its proximity to Vietnam, this was one of the areas that was heavily (and illegally) carpet-bombed by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Today, this area is ravaged by another type of evil – greed. There is massive, illegal land-grabbing and deforestation here, and our students are all witnesses to it in one way or another.
Our connection in Mondulkiri is Yun Mane. Mane is a member of one of Cambodia’s indigenous tribes and they are feeling the brunt of the land-grabbing. She is an activist and works daily to try to stop the loss of indigenous lands. Helena and Leah are living in the provincial capitol of Sen Monorom. Leah is working at the Indigenous People’s Lodge, which is owned and operated by Mane’s family. It is in a charming setting with a number of quaint huts, each representing a variety of traditional homes from indigenous tribes. In addition to helping at the lodge, Leah is teaching English to the staff and their children. Helena is working for the Indigenous People Health Improvement Association. Helena is working with the staff there to research, write and edit grant proposals. The NGO is involved in various health support and education projects in the province and is currently working heavily on TB education and eradication.
Marlie and Jon are each outside of the capital city living in small indigenous villages, both quite far off the beaten path. Just how far? Get a glimpse here, as we all traveled to visit Marlie’s village. While their service is to teach English, they have had significant time to immerse themselves and to “be” in their communities. They have had opportunities to sit in on meetings about indigenous rights and concerns, and they have traveled to other villages to listen to discussions about land-grabbing. These assignments are very rural and they allow a lot of time alone. Jon and Marlie are both building significant relationships, are learning about life in indigenous villages, and are both learning some of the finer points in regards to the value of indigenous people protecting and living off of their traditional land.