“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” Nietzsche
Why do we build bridges? Bridges take us from one side to another. They enable movement in situations where, without them, a crossing would be either difficult, inconvenient, or at times, impossible. In the lives of the children of the urban poor in Phnom Penh, the bridge with which they “cross the river of life” can take them from being unseen, unheard, without representation, oppressed, living literally in the margins of the city, to a place of healthy integration into society. Education is a key component to this kind of economic and social mobility but the actual daily process takes so much more than just education.
For me, the Nietzsche quote begs the question, what is the bridge on which you cross the river of life made of? The final product and therefore destination of this bridge depends on both the material and construction of that bridge. What is necessary for a child to be able to build a bridge that will effectively take them from poverty and desperation to a space of empowerment? I don’t have answers, and each child needs a different set of materials depending on the individual situation, but one thing’s for sure, they all need courage, determination and strength.
For the kids who live in squalid circumstances, often with parents who have gone through hideous times, access to education is by no means a given. But that access alone is not the bridge. The children themselves need to build their own bridge and cross over to the other side. They face huge challenges, pressure to contribute to the family economy, and practical obstacles like a house which is not waterproof in a city that witnesses massive deluges in the rainy season for months of the year. They often don’t have someone at home who can help them with their homework. It’s not easy.
I have seen happy kids laughing in some of the most dismal places in the city, and some of them will have the courage and will to stay in school, year after year until they graduate. We see today in the Leadership Academy, young adults who have had to dig deep, overcome obstacles and now determine their own futures.
We need help to get more young high school graduates into our program.
Please consider donating and helping these guys with their bridge.