There are 18 of them. The oldest was born around 1903 and the youngest in 1944. They have seen the best and the worst that the past century has had to offer the land of their birth, Cambodia. Born under colonial rule, they have known their capital city when it was lauded as the Paris of the East and seen it emptied by a revolutionary army in the prelude to one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century. Some of them felt the thud of foreign bombs and others heard bullets buzz in the civil wars. They have seen their country ruined and slowly rebuilt while their own feet and those of the families they raised have crisscrossed the land in their life-long search for security and an elusive prosperity. All 18 of them have found themselves at Steung Meanchey in their later years, living in the shadow of the old, massive rubbish dump.
Scott plans to “employ” several of these old women to act as community representatives and share their stories, wisdom and knowledge of bygone eras. He has already seen them in action, babysitting, telling teenagers how life used to be – telling them of times when young people respected and listened to their elders.
“I worry that when these old women die, they will take all that knowledge and all that experience with them,” Scott said. “They have so much to offer the younger people.”
Scott held a meeting to gauge the level of interest in the program, and 16 women between the ages of 68 and 109 turned up, keen to become involved.
The women will receive five kilos of rice and $8 every week. In return, they will act as the eyes and ears of the community, sharing their wisdom and imparting their knowledge. They will even have CCF vouchers available to give people who need medical care or other CCF services.
Because they live in the villages, they can see which families are in greatest need and refer them to CCF.
“These women are the only ones with knowledge of what life was like before all the troubles in Cambodia,” Scott said. “It worries me that children are growing up without values, without knowledge and morals. These women can help change that.”
“I want them to become points of wisdom. I feel very strongly about the loss of values and loss of knowledge.”
Scott has monks regularly visit CCF to offer moral teachings to the people of Steung Meanchey and encourages young people to join in.
“Monks and religion were a big part of life in Cambodia. I’d like to see that happen again.” There are now 18 women in the Granny Program.
“It’s open to men too,” Scott said, “but, so far, only women have signed up.
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