I arrived at the garbage dump, with a translator from the orphanage. I sat in the back of a Tuk Tuk as the motorcycle drove me through streets of people and buildings. We traveled down many gravel roads to a place that I read so much about from my home in Winnipeg. I was here. This was Smokey Mountain.

I walked down the gravel road in silence as my translator friend stayed back at the motorbike. There were hundreds of people covered in dirt, digging through garbage with their bare hands and hooks. And then, I noticed the children. They were everywhere. I mean everywhere.

I wondered the dump and saw children in bare feet. They were walking over garbage, glass, metal, needles. Many of the children had cuts, scraps and bruises. A truck drove in to drop another load of garbage and people ran with all their energy to jump on the trucks to be the first to search through other people’s waste. The trucks moved back and forth among the people like they didn’t exist. I can’t think of a more disgraceful place for people, who were just like me, but different.

There are 2,000 people that work and live at the dump. There are over 600 children. Some of the children ended up in the dump, because their families were very poor and that’s all they ever knew. Many of these children come from the streets, where they could no longer survive and needed money to eat. Many of these children were orphans, because their parents died of illness. Many of these children were alone.

As I talked with two young girls, I asked them if they had a dream for the future. One of the girls told me that she just wanted to go to school. She said, “But, if I go to school nobody will find garbage to feed my family.” She was no older than ten years old. I gave the girls a dollar each and they smiled at me. And, they smiled at me.

How can we let people live in garbage? How can we let this happen? How can I walk away from them and leave them here? How can I look at them in the eyes anymore and not help them. This is hell. And, I’m just a visitor.

I arrived at the garbage dump, with a translator from the orphanage. I sat in the back of a Tuk Tuk as the motorcycle drove me through streets of people and buildings. But, this time I was on my way to the most incredible place on earth.

Learn more about the Stung Meanchey Dump.