“When the burly Cambodian guard told me not to go any further into the jail because it was too dangerous, I listened to him. I was already smack in the middle of it anyway. Yes, it was pretty rough.” What was Alex – a switched on 20-something Australian whose mother is the only person on the face of the earth who calls her Alexandra – doing in Correction Centre 2? It is one of the worst of the 23 jails in the Kingdom, not that any of them are exactly a place you would want to spend any time.
There are 16 babies in the prison – two of them were recently born there – and Alex set up the Mums and Bubs project. Like Down in the Dumps it runs on volunteer labour and donations.
“Rather than focusing on what the mothers may have done to end up there, we’re only interested in the babies who range in age from new-borns to three. They are the sickest, most malnourished kids I’ve ever seen” – and she has been to the dump and the tree with me – “There is a three year old who can’t walk or talk. They don’t get any sunshine or decent food.”
In Cambodian jails they don’t feed prisoners. So without relatives and friends on the outside, those serving time can literally starve. Women with babies get slightly better services from various NGOs. But with twenty five women and kids in a space that was designed for four, it is a rough go.
The mothers are encouraged to breast feed, but some of them can’t. The immediate concern for Mums and Bubs is to buy formula for the tikes, so Down in the Dumps donated $50. The babies will eat this month. I’m sure you will agree your money was well spent.
The next project for Mums and Bubs is to take the kids to the Children’s Surgical Centre – run by a German doctor – for checkups. Although many of the services – including ear/nose and throat operations – are free, it costs 5,000 (about $1.25) to take a patient history and 10,000 ($2.50) for a consultation.
“Another major problem is that these kids aren’t registered, the Cambodian equivalent of a birth certificate. Without that they can’t go to school, get any government services or vote when they are old enough. The cost is minimal. If I could get that organized it would make my day. It is just so important to have that piece of paper, because without it they are non-entities.”
If you can find a few rubles to help Alex with her project, it would be most appreciated. Just let me know that it is intended for Mums and Bubs and I will pass it along.
We still have $240.20 in the Down in the Dumps fund. The next project is a community centre at the dump—a table, chairs and tarp that will come in at about $150. The micro-loaners have repaid $90 and all the books are in order.
Consistent with contradictions, stay tuned for “The Princess and the Paupers” coming up next.