Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, a land ravaged by war and the terror regime of the ferocious Khmer Rouge (Cambodian revolutionaries), who created a dictatorship and brutally exterminated two million of their own people, nearly a third of the population at the time.
In the old town of Phnom Penh you can visit a labour camp which has been turned into a museum, where there are photos and drawings which recall the brutality and which leave you lost for words.
We take a van from the capital to the village of Roong, some 30 miles away, moving from the hectic city centre – leaving via the outskirts made up of shacks and street sellers offering scrap metal and tyres – until we are surrounded by paddy fields.
It was fantastic to see the 350 children celebrating our arrival. Barely more than three feet tall, they were stood in two lines wearing Inter shirts and they clapped and waved to us in a shy but affectionate way.
These children’s jet black eyes emitted a contagious enthusiasm right from the start of the educational activities, as the first kicks of the ball and the games on the pitch were all accompanied by a sense of enjoyment and great happiness.
As football is not widely played in the country, the role of the coaches is even more important, while the positive effect on the children is immediate and great to see.
In order to take part in these activities and to attend the school that “Mission Possible” has built for them, the children journey from afar, walking alongside the paddy fields in temperatures exceeding 35 degrees and in humidity which is almost unbearable for us. It’s lovely to see that the children are keen to start and turn up very early for the activity.
The backdrop of paddy fields extending as far as the eye can see is divided by geometrical lines – dirt roads waiting the work of foreign multinationals, which are starting to delocalise the industrial production. The houses are pile dwellings where large families live with farm animals.
Drinking water is filtered from the few wells to be found and there is no sewage system. Dumping grounds are all over the place – next to them rise shacks because the main source of income is separating rubbish to earn a few dollars.
The work done by Mission Possible in this area is indispensable for the children’s future and being here with Inter Campus reminds me once again how important it is to help these marvellous boys and girls grow up by providing them with rules, an upbringing, fun and joy.
Until the next adventure…