Worryingly, the current threat of the Covid-19 outbreak is just one of many problems at the forefront of our families minds. Right now, a number of our families main concern is where they will find food and a place to rest their heads. It is with much sadness; we share the news that a number of REACH families have just been made homeless.
THE 38-ROADS PROJECT
From December last year, Siem Reap has been undergoing an unrecognisable city-wide reconstruction. The “38 roads” project, a $150 million dollar investment is underway to modernise the city. Due to be completed early next year, builders are at work ripping up the old dirt roads to create tarmacked infrastructure and an improved drainage system.
With no tourists on the streets, we believe there is no better time for this project to have commenced. It has created hundreds of jobs in a critical time, and while we are so excited for the positive effects this development will have on Siem Reap, it is difficult to ignore that as a result of these works countless impoverished families that were squatting on government land have been displaced.
During the Pol Pot regime less than 50 years ago, entire cities were uprooted and displaced to the rural countryside to begin an agrarian society. This new society tried to evoke an anonymity amongst the population, as land titles and all formal documentation was destroyed. After the war ended in 1979, the land belonged to the state, and when the locals returned to the city, their only choice was to claim buildings and vacant land to try and rebuild their lives.
Many people informally purchased land rights, which today are considered illegal and according to International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), in the capital city of Phnomh Penh, less than 40% of properties are legally recorded in the new land title system. The registration process is expensive and a luxury that many cannot afford to do.
Consequently, many poor families in Cambodia have lived on government land for years, in the houses that they rebuilt after theirs was torn down in the war. Not knowing the status of their land, these urban poor communities are extremely vulnerable, as the land they have raised their family on is bought out from under them for urbanisation.
In recent times, due to poverty in their rural hometowns, hundreds of families have also desperately travelled to Siem Reap with their children in search of employment and education opportunities. Arriving to the city with a comparatively higher cost of living, many guardians are unable to earn adequate income to rent a room; as a result, they have no choice but to squat on government roadsides.
Pictured above is a 1.5km stretch of development just minutes away from REACH. This aerial shot shows the newly built road; less than 2 months ago, this strip was filled with houses.
Watching their homes being demolished right before their eyes, the displacement of these families who are living in abject poverty sees them at a crossroads; to stay in Siem Reap with nothing and fight for survival, or to return to their hometowns, with nothing. The latter likely resulting in their children’s abandoned education.
3 REACH families have already had their houses demolished and have had to relocate, with 8 more families receiving confirmation that they will be next. If they want to remain in the city where employment and education prospects are higher, they desperately need support.
In response to this crisis we aim to help these families by temporarily subsidising or funding their rental rooms until the situation has improved. To ensure sustainability, agreements will be drawn up with selected families whereby they understand that they will take over the rental contract when tourism returns and their ability to earn an income is stable.
Can you help these families?
For the entire month of June, all donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000AUD, so that you can double your REACH!
For just $40AUD, you can secure 1 month of rental assistance for a family in need.
Click here to make a donation and #doubleyourREACH today.