Flame recently adopted the Hope for Life Activity Centre in the heart of Steung Meanchay, which has been running for many years.
This is the kind of established slum where centres get broken into, things get stolen, and drug and alcohol related crimes are rampant. It's the underbelly of Phnom Penh where criminals run to when there's a police chase.
Sue's perspective of Steung Meanchey -
" It's not just slums and smells you can taste. The slum felt like another level down, more hardcore. We met a grandma today who is 50. I stood in her -not-even-house, with no door, just a corner of a walkway, my feet straddled the sewerage that was coming through from under the bed. I felt a heaviness of the deal she's been dealt in life, her son is a drug addict, her daughter in law has run away and her own husband recently died and she is left with her 10 yr old grandson.
I know that Flame can't take all that pain away, but we can do something to bring joy into her life. For this woman to see her grandson thrive, that he's in school and has such a different future from his own parents gives her hope. Her future is pretty much set, but she can see a brighter future for her grandson.
Strangely, I don't feel hopeless when I see the slum. It's really well established, renown for drug and alcohol related crime and is a hiding place for criminals. But I do feel sad that Flame wasn't here 20 years ago. If we were involved in this community they would now have some young adults who would be doctors, lawyers and teachers who would be shining lights in that place.
That would be incredibly inspirational to the people we met there today. Maybe that would be the impetus they need to do the hard work required to get them out of that lifestyle and culture and rut.
There's an African proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today. So even though Flame wasn't there 20 years ago, we are there today. And that's what matters.