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- 20/03/2020 10:29 AM
Elderly cyclo riders are early beneficiaries
PHNOM PENH--Many youth groups have teamed up to raise funds to help needy and vulnerable people whose livelihood has been greatly affected by the lockdown in Phnom Penh.
Iv Samnang, who has run a charity for cyclo riders, has formed a team to do this work, with elderly cyclo riders being his target group.
It’s not the first time he and his team have distributed humanitarian packages to help cyclo riders but this time it’s much more challenging due to the restrictions imposed by the government to curb the COVID-19 spread.
In the first week of the lockdown in Phnom Penh and Takhmao city, Samnang said he was called by a cyclo rider who said he and other cyclo riders had encountered a lot of hardship during the lockdown, especially running out of basic supplies.
“After I received the information from an uncle who is a cyclo rider that they had problems during the lockdown, I started a charity campaign to gather support on the social media,” Samnang said, adding he received almost $26,000 in total from almost a thousand generous donors.
Due to restrictions, he said his team needed to cooperate with the cyclo association as it had contact numbers for the majority of cyclo riders. As distribution of donations was difficult, he and his team decided to donate 600,000 riel or $150 each to around 144 cyclo riders, many of whom are elderly.
“I already confirmed with the association, there are more than 144 riders but many other already had gone home in the provinces before the lockdown was imposed,” Samnang said. With the amount of money given, those cyclo riders can support themselves for a month.
“I dare not say 100 percent of cyclo riders who are still in Phnom Penh have received this donation, but we tried our best to work with the cyclo association to identify those drivers,” he said.
“My team and I also tried to drive around and find as many of them as we could to make sure those who are in great need of help receive this support.”
Asked how he felt to have contributed to supporting many needy people during this difficult time, he said he was elated and flabbergasted that his campaign gained much support and could gather this big amount of money.
“I could not explain my feeling and I did not expect that there were so many people donating to support us. I am so excited despite the difficulties. Some cyclo grandfathers cried and some others almost burst into tears because they have never had a chance to hold this much cash,” he recounted.
“First time in my life to receive this much money”
Ngoun Sok, 87, who has been a cyclo rider for almost his entire life, said he was very thankful for this enormous financial support.
“I have been a cyclo rider since I was 19, and cyclo is my bread and butter. But it was the first time I have got this huge amount of money,” said Sok, who is originally from Prey Veng province and is a father of six children.
He said the donation has been used for personal daily expenses and to support his family in his hometown.
Sok went on to praise people in Phnom Penh, saying that they are very generous and have deep sympathy for elderly and deprived people like him.
“They keep bringing us packages of food like rice, canned fish and fish sources. They pity us and they keep helping us,” he said.
When asked if he fears COVID infection as many cases have been detected each day with more than 90 deaths recorded, Sok said he takes health precautions like donning a face mask and washing his hands. He added as he is already 87, death to him is natural.
“Death is unpredictable and unforeseen. But it is fortunate that my health is good.
“I remain healthy and even healthier than some young cyclo riders,” he laughed.
The remaining money from the donation had been used to buy food, including rice for several poor households while some was offered to Buddhist monks.
“We offered some donation to a few pagodas and also to almost 180 poor families in Meanchey District, Russey Keo District and Toul Kork District,” Samnang said.
As for challenges, he said his family asked him to suspend his humanitarian actions during this lockdown because it is risky.
“They asked me to do it for the last time. I understand because if I got infected, it would put my entire family at a much greater risk,” he said.
“But as long as there are people who need help, I will try to think of ways to help and not give up on them.”
As the community transmission is far from over with the government deciding to extend lockdown for a week as several hundred cases are detected each day, it remains unsure how poor families and vulnerable groups will cope with the restrictions. But Samnang expressed hope and encouraged more Cambodians to do more to help others, especially those in need.
Youth groups take parts in helping the poor
Many other young people have been running humanitarian campaigns to support the needy during the crisis.
Tuy Chanmonypech, 23, who is a member of a team of five, has been fundraising on social media to help vulnerable groups in Phnom Penh.
“In our first mission, we have provided around 200 packages to people in Por Sen Chey district, and each package consists of noodle, face masks, drinks, fish sauce and other things,” Chanmonypech said.
She said her team has been working to identify people who are in the most difficult situations and in most need based on information provided through official channels run by the authorities.
Her team will now target vulnerable groups like street vendors, motordub or tuk tuk drivers as well as trash collectors.
Asked why they started this initiative, Chanmonypech said the grim and distressing environment after the city was hit hard by the COVID community cluster emboldened them greatly to help vulnerable people.
“Like some of us, we can afford to stockpile food or other basic supplies during this lockdown period, but it is totally different for the needy.
“If we don’t help each other as Khmer, it is really difficult. And we have the same nationality so we should help.”
Difficulties they have encountered include finding suppliers for products they need and getting donation packages distributed. These have been challenging because many shops have been closed and distribution is dependent on delivery services due to restrictions.
In the post-COVID time, Chanmonypech said her team plans to do more charity work but the target group will be poor students.
“We don’t expect this can happen quickly because the pandemic is still here, but we will do it despite our busy schedule,” she said.