This week, work has led me to the most remote province of Cambodia: Rattanakiri. My guide was Anne, a Laos+Khmer-fluent American lady who has lived in the region for over 10 years. She is a legend around these parts as you will soon see.
Out here there is little access to solar equipment and I was here to go the extra mile and see just what solar power was needed for. Anne volunteers with a couple NGOs who have set up literacy classes for remote minority people groups first in their language, and then in Khmer. The sunlight hours have the people completely consumed with manual labour – rice fields, pounding grain, weaving, and gathering nuts and fruits to name a few activities. The only opportunity for education is at night where there isn't much to do under the light of the stars.
Getting to the villages was quite the ordeal and adventure. Throw bicycles into a pickup, drive 40km north of Ban Lung (capital city of R'kiri) to the end of the road, take a ferry, get on the bicycles and ride 8km, stop at a wedding for rice wine and gong music, continue to the end of the road, ditch the bikes, wade across a river, climb up some hills and then you're there! Villagers don't have any extra food so we eat what we bring, string up a hammock in the guest hut and fall instantly to sleep from over-exhaustion. Except for Anne that is, who yaks with the villagers and apparently is not phased by the ride to the village that nearly killed me. Anne is at home in the village. They are her family and her heart's desire is to help them in anyway and does just this, living a frugal lifestyle similar to many locals.
At night in the village, everyone gathers around a makeshift blackboard illuminated by a solar powered bulb. 3 hours per night is all you get and it's the best social activity in the community – no one misses out. All teachers are volunteers (previous graduates)