Mission: Down to Basics

                                                                                                           [Photo by Sean Sprague]
Fr. Kevin Conroy is a Maryknoll associate priest like me–a diocesan priest on loan to Maryknoll.  We live together in Phnom Penh.  He is a doctor of psychology and has started a mobile mental health team that especially tries to find and work with mentally ill people who are chained up or put in cages (like the woman above) because their families and society don’t know what to do with them.  Read about his ministry in Maryknoll Magazine.

What, me worry?

Can you pick out any violations or accidents waiting to happen in this picture?

  • None of the motorcyclists are wearing a helmet.
  • The little boy is standing in front of his mother on the second motorcycle.
  • Two workers are standing on the rail of the motorcycle wagon or on top of the load.
  • The far motorcyclist is using the phone while driving.  (But it’s only his left hand, the brake hand, so it doesn’t matter.)

This is 6:00 AM in the morning and everyone knows traffic rules don’t apply early in the morning.  Also the police don’t work on weekends so why worry?

Not for me….

One of the minor anomalies for me in Phnom Penh is the location of a bunch of small shops selling mussels and clams.  They are located on the northern edge of the city, about as far away from the river as you can get, and I’m curious how they established that location for that product.  These mussels pictured are rather big compared to the thumbnail-size ones that are sold from carts pushed around the streets.  The small ones are a favorite snack of the locals.  I’m not tempted by the mussels and clams, partly because they are generally eaten raw and partly because they come from the Mekong River and I don’t want to even put my foot in that much less eat something that lives in it.  Phnom Penh is a city of more than a million people and has almost no sewage treatment.  Guess where the raw sewage goes?

A Good Example

This is a really encouraging happening, a group of young people down on the Phnom Penh riverfront picking up trash.  The littering landscape here is like it was in Kentucky in the 1940s and 50s.  People then threw paper, bottles, cigarettes, etc., out the car window or just dropped trash on the street as they walked along.  Then came the Don’t Be a Litterbug campaign.  Change didn’t happen overnight but anyone throwing trash on a street in the US today knows it’s wrong.  Most people don’t know that here so it’s heartening to see this group setting a good public example by picking up after others.

UNDP Meeting

                                                                                                                                            [Photo by Cedric Jancloes]
Sometimes people ask what priests do all day.  They only see us in church and are curious what the rest of our week is like.  Here I am today at the United Nations Development Program office in Phnom Penh for a meeting on the National Disability Strategy Program.  I went there as a representative from the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme.