Friday, January 23, 2015

Cambodia - Flood, Grief, and Rebuilding



Remnants of the cleanup
Psalm 71:20-21 (NLT) You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.  You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.

No wonder there’s flooding.  There’s nowhere for the water to go in Phnom Penh. 

Every surface is concrete or asphalt.  Many storefronts and apartments have decorative potted plants, but there are no medians, backyards, fields, or parks where the earth can absorb water.

I observed some storm drains clogged with garbage and others covered by old rugs to allow drainage but prevent clogging.  To make matters worse, in the name of progress, two lakes have recently been filled in for development, further reducing natural water drainage.

Marks on the wall tell the story
WL has constructed a berm (like a speed bump) along the street to divert water away from their gate, and they use piled sandbags to seal the bottom gap.  But last November, overnight, the water rose above the sandbags and was thigh deep by morning.  Security was broken -- the water flow bowed the gate, forcing its way through, so that the swinging doors no longer close properly.  Safety was compromised -- their pumping system was overwhelmed with nowhere to put the filthy water, and broke down.  Property was ruined – a week of slowly receding water left a swath of mucky damage:  desks, shelving, and supplies were all ruined; sewing machines had been rescued to the second floor, but only after a day under water.  Transportation for the girls was cut off - the tuk-tuk (think moped sized minibus) had sat in the muck too and is now inoperable.

Can these shelves be saved or will they mold and rot?
Such loss!  Such discouragement!  And an enormous mess to scrub and clean!  And there is no such thing as “flood remediation” in Phnom Penh.  You do it yourself, shoveling muck into piles to dry and then sweep up, scrubbing walls and furniture to remove the filth and prevent mold.  Donna and I had packed yellow rubber gloves, Band Aids and lots of anti-bacterial ointment, expecting to help with the cleanup, but remarkably that part of the work had been done by the staff and loyal friends.

But the grief wasn’t done.

Even though we brought good news - funds from my church and Amilia’s Light to help with repairs - it was painful for Sherry to take us to the property -- so hard to talk about, so hard to make calls for repair estimates, still grieving.  We helped tackle that next hump toward rebuilding with a plan in place for a new gate, tuk-tuk, pumps, at least one commercial sewing machine and some shelving.  But more importantly, we listened to the story and viewed photos, watermarks and dirty rags still hanging to dry.  Sometimes all you can bring is love, and often it is exactly what is needed!
The pumping system was overwhelmed

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