Meeting Mech Sarin

Words by Justine Flynn
02 July, 2018

I had visited Cambodia a few times and was well prepared for what I would experience. Or so I thought. This trip took me completely by surprise. From previous trips, I had learnt that many people of Cambodia were quite shy and extremely reluctant to share their stories with foreigners – until I met Mech Sarin.

I walked across a very unstable bridge, hoping not to lose my footing and stumble into a ditch of dirty water and came to a beautiful house. I was greeted by Mech Sarin, a beautiful woman and most of her family.

A little embarrassed that her house was “messy”, (which, I must say, was quite tidy!) she invited me in, and we sat down where she began to talk with me openly. I could tell she was bursting to share – the look in her eyes said it all. I told our interpreter that if she started to share, let her keep talking uninterrupted. Despite the fact I could not understand a word she spoke, the pain she had gone through radiated as she talked.

I tried to lend a comforting smile to show my compassion and support, but as soon as she began to cry, I could not hold back my tears. Typical girls, huh? I have had many moments with close girlfriends where we would both just sit and cry, but this moment was with a stranger, who was speaking a different language, but smiling and crying in the same voice.

“I had my first daughter and when she was five and a half months old my husband got injured by a land mine and he lost his leg. We took him to Kampong Chhnang hospital. When he came back it was the rice-planting season. I had to plow and turn over the soil all by myself even though I had given birth. This is the reason the situation in the family was terrible. It was difficult as it was only me who use the plow and equipment.”

“My mother helped me with planting and with carrying water really far distances. If we dug our only well the soil kept falling back into the hole and we didn’t have the money to fix it which was the reason for collecting water from other wells which was very far and difficult, very difficult when pregnant and having to get water far from the house.”

Every person, no matter what country we live in, goes through hard times. We lose those close to us, we encounter sickness, we battle financial turmoil, natural disasters and so on. We need to remember that we are all human. We might have different languages but we all laugh and cry the same. Those born into poverty or places of war and conflict have an even harder time overcoming these hardships by not having the bare essentials such as water. As long as I live in a free nation, with everything I need to live at my access, I will do whatever I can to make the lives of people like Mech Sarin a little easier to live.

— Words by Justine Flynn