Monday, August 23, 2010

40 hour famine!

I had given up on the idea of doing the 40 hour famine this year. I HAD rallied a group of enthusiastic friends together to do the famine with me, but the participation pack never arrived from World Vision.

I suppose I needed a bit of a push.

I knew I could register as an individual participant, but the idea of ONLY being able to collect online donations seemed ridiculous. The majority of my friends are university students, who are too poor to have credit cards to donate online. At most, I reasoned, I would make about $15-$20.

Then, on Friday, I recieved the push I needed.

I decided to set up an online profile, and do a last minute push on facebook for donations. I was impressed with the response, and Im still recieving donations today even after the weekend is done! I have made somewhere around the $60+ mark, which is 3-4 times what I thought Id make in such a short time with only facebook as my means to beg off my friends. Sometimes its possible to be pleasantly surprised with people's genorosity. This is one of those occaisions.

On Friday night, I began the challenge of going without food, furniture and facebook. With election fever in the air, it was very difficult staying off facebook. At Saturday night's election party, it was difficult to pass up the kind offer of western-style food as a group of Australians gathered aroudn a Phnom Penh television set to hear the news. Not that there was any news to hear. Sleeping on the tiles of my hotel room floor on an empty stomach was, admittedly, pretty difficult, but the tuk-tuk ride from the election party to Takmau gave me a pretty strong reminder of why I was doing the 40 hour famine in the first place.

It couldnt have been later than 12:30am, but the rains were the heaviest I had seen them. My tuk-tuk driver had kindly unrolled a layer of waterproof protection between me and the elements, but I was still able to observe sites, even with nearly everything being boarded up for the evening. Then I saw a group of kids, probably around 7-9 years old, collecting garbage on the streets. They were all carrying garbage bags and reaching their bear hands into rubbish piles to see if they could pull out anything of value. Its 12:30am, these kids should be in bed. Instead they are collecting rubbish, in the pouring rain, unsupervised.

Somewhere out there, I knew that there were parents or carers who were somehow profiteering from the kids streetpicking. I knew that these kids will probably always find themselves risking exposure to disease and risking injury just to scrape over the poverty line, either to support their siblings or, as is often the case, supporting a parent's alcahol, gambling, or drug addiction.

I went home and slept on the tiles, on an empty stomach, without having updated my facebook status. It was uncomfortable. But so is poverty.

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