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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australian benefactor gets new homes for dump families

Australian benefactor gets new homes for dump families

090504_04.jpg
090504_04.jpg

With closure of the Stung Meanchey dump, 21 families facing eviction will move near Udong mountain with help of Australian and Habitat for Humanity.

Photo by:
TOM HUNTER 

Residents of the Stung Meanchey dump visit their new houses near Udong mountain.

PAUL Munn's cane sank into a mountain of Phnom Penh waste; losing his balance and about to fall into the refuse, Munn was saved by a young boy who grabbed his palm to steady him.

This simple act last year proved a pivotal moment for a community of 21 Stung Meanchey dumpsite families facing eviction.

Munn returned to Australia to raise money for the community to purchase a small plot of land at the base of Udong mountain for them to be relocated.

The French NGO Pour un Sourire d'Enfant estimates that around 400 Stung Meanchey dump families will be displaced when the site closes later this year, having been declared a blight on the expanding capital.

Munn used to visit the dumpsite regularly, taking children food and other aid. Following his near collapse into the city's rubbish, Munn found himself being guided through the trash hills by the son of community leader Chea Chandy.

Munn met with Chea Chandy that afternoon and discussed the future of his small community. Chea Chandy took a holistic view of the dump's closure, but voiced concerns about the eviction.

"The dumpsite is my home, and it is my source of income. Evicting me from my home is wrong, but I am also a human being, and I realise that this is not how I should live," he told the Post Friday.

"Living at the dump, I have no dignity.... Closing the dumpsite and moving to Udong is going to be better for my children and better for the environment," he added.

Upon his return to Australia, Munn raised about US$15,000 for 3,000 square metres of land near Udong in  Kandal province.

Munn approached Habitat for Humanity to construct 21 new houses at the site, and  now there are plans to  aquire an additional 7,000 square metres of land adjacent to the housing project for agricultural production.

The move to Udong has inspired Chea Chandy to rename his community "The New Life Community", saying that it represents the hopes he holds for his new life.

"At Udong, we'll have to adapt by seeing what other villagers do and do something similar," Chea Chandy said, adding that he was not sure how the would make a living.

Habitat for Humanity plans to build 21 houses in five days with the help of 300 volunteers as part of the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

"We've now built a community centre in five days with 14 US Peace Corps volunteers, community leaders and skilled labourers," Melissa Cronin, the resource development and communications officer for

Habitat for Humanity Cambodia, said Friday. 

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