Prek Pnov

Prek Pnov is a community on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It is unique in that many of its residents live on a thin swath of land that is sandwiched between a major roadway and the bank of the Tonle Sap river. Each year, predictably, that swath of land massively floods. Homes that are made to float rise with the water, while homes built on stilts are subject to flooding that lasts for months at a time. Over the course of our years in Cambodia we have spent more time in Prek Pnov then probably any other village. Much of that time has been during the dry season though, and while we have been told many times about the annual flooding, we had no idea the scope of it until recently - until seeing it with our own eyes.

Mid-May through October is rainy season in Cambodia. During this time, not only does it rain A LOT, but there is melt from the higher regions that drains into the Mekong river. The Mekong river and the Tonle Sap converge at Phnom Penh, and when the Mekong, swelled to capacity, meets the rain-swollen Tonle Sap, it over takes the smaller river, causing it to reverse direction of flow, flooding everything that sits anywhere near its banks.

About now you might be thinking that anywhere along the banks of the Tonle Sap is not a good place to live. So why do people live there? The situation is complicated with the government bureaucracy, limited options for education, and a variety of social challenges that tend to accompany extreme poverty and continue the cycle.

Two weeks ago we visited Prek Pnov with our friends Kosal, who works in the community as the director of Asian Hope’s school located there, and Sopheak, the community resource liaison, who grew up in Prek Pnov. While our hearts were again touched for the people and the difficult life there, we were also encouraged by the steadfast love and compassion Kosal and Sopheak have for this community. While we often feel like we are inadequate for truly making a difference when the needs are so great, Kosal and Sopheak, by their gracious interactions with the people, reminded us that sometimes simply extending a hand, sharing a smile, or buying a few fish and some peanuts does make a difference. Ultimately, while these interactions seem so small, when added up over time, they make the biggest difference. It’s through these interactions that relationships are built, the gospel is demonstrated and shared, and lives are changed.

Words are effective communicators but you all know that my first language is visual. The following is a look at the Prek Pnov community on the morning of September 29th. Despite all the issues our hearts are touched by this community and we hope that yours will be too.

 Morning chores. A man walks to his house along a makeshift bridge through a flooded banana grove.

Morning chores. A man walks to his house along a makeshift bridge through a flooded banana grove.

 Women selling fish just up the street from the river. The main industry in Prek Pnov is fishing and the fish market.

Women selling fish just up the street from the river. The main industry in Prek Pnov is fishing and the fish market.

 A flooded alley leading from the dry land to a stilt house.

A flooded alley leading from the dry land to a stilt house.

 A woman selling peanuts on the dry side of the street.

A woman selling peanuts on the dry side of the street.

 A woman doing laundry outside her stilt home. The water is approximately 6-8 feet deep here. The recent high water line can be seen on the house in the background.

A woman doing laundry outside her stilt home. The water is approximately 6-8 feet deep here. The recent high water line can be seen on the house in the background.

 A girl returning to the village from the river.

A girl returning to the village from the river.

 Floating homes. During the dry season these homes will rest on land or sit in very shallow water.

Floating homes. During the dry season these homes will rest on land or sit in very shallow water.

 Women laughing as they go about their work of hauling blocks of ice to a floating hut where fish were being processed.

Women laughing as they go about their work of hauling blocks of ice to a floating hut where fish were being processed.

 A woman returning home after spending the morning selling food from her boat.

A woman returning home after spending the morning selling food from her boat.

 Baskets being returned from the night fish market to fish processing locations on the river.

Baskets being returned from the night fish market to fish processing locations on the river.

 A child walking to his home behind the Asian Hope school, located to the right, behind the banana trees.

A child walking to his home behind the Asian Hope school, located to the right, behind the banana trees.

 An elderly couple preparing food in the flooded first floor of their stilt home. The water is approximately 9 feet deep here.

An elderly couple preparing food in the flooded first floor of their stilt home. The water is approximately 9 feet deep here.

 Kosal said this dog was “welcoming us to his home” as we motored by in our boat.

Kosal said this dog was “welcoming us to his home” as we motored by in our boat.

 Laundry hangs everywhere - such a personal sign of life here.

Laundry hangs everywhere - such a personal sign of life here.

 An older man watching as a boy splashes in the water.

An older man watching as a boy splashes in the water.

 These bridges are built throughout the community. Aside from boat, this network of scrap boards is the only way to get from house to house and from river to shore.

These bridges are built throughout the community. Aside from boat, this network of scrap boards is the only way to get from house to house and from river to shore.

 Kids navigate the walkways with the precision of an olympic athlete on beam.

Kids navigate the walkways with the precision of an olympic athlete on beam.

 Youth gambling and drinking is a problem. Sadly we saw many children carrying fist-fulls of small money and torn game boards littering the ground.

Youth gambling and drinking is a problem. Sadly we saw many children carrying fist-fulls of small money and torn game boards littering the ground.

 Plastic bags are collected, washed, and hung to dry - prepared for resale.

Plastic bags are collected, washed, and hung to dry - prepared for resale.

 Stilt homes. Residents move to the upper floors during the wet season.

Stilt homes. Residents move to the upper floors during the wet season.

 A boy dressed in a Spiderman shirt boards a boat out to the river.

A boy dressed in a Spiderman shirt boards a boat out to the river.

kmbelloni2 Comments