Everyday life in Cambodia Ė as seen through the eyes of children

A photo documentary by Anne-Lise Aakervik

February 2004

  Big Boys!In February 2003. I went to Cambodia for the first time. I am a Norwegian journalist, my name is Anne-Lise Aakervik, and my knowledge of the country at that time was of the terrible civil war in the 70ís and the killing of millions of people during the regime of Pol Pot.

Still, after 20 years, the wounds from Pol Potís regime havenít healed. Even today a lot of children donít go to school. Their parents donít know how to read and write, as they grew up during Pol Pot times, and they were sent to labour camps. They lived in fear. Since 1980 the country has struggled to build up the education system. I wanted to see for myself how the children manage their everyday life.

Cambodia is the land of children. They are everywhere, playing, working, going to school or begging. Over 50 % of the country's population is children under 18 years. And nearly half of them have to work to support their families.

  FishingTo be a child in this country is hard work, and the future prospects are uncertain. Even though many have a chance to attend school, few manage to complete elementary school and start senior education.

To start to get an answer I needed to get close to the children. But when you use a translator it is difficult. I therefore brought with me disposable cameras and gave them to 5th grade pupils attending Baktok School and Norodom School in Phnom Penh, pupils at the floating school in the village Kampong Our and paper-collecting street kids at the Olympic Market in Phnom Penh.

I asked them to take pictures from their everyday life, the life that I as a foreign journalist, who doesnít speak Khmer, will never get to know. ďThe purpose is to show children in Norway how your life isĒ, I told them. I wanted to make an exhibition back in Norway.

  Happy GirlsAll of the children I had contact with responded positively to this challenge.

Photography is universal in its way to communicate. The cameras worked as a tool for the children in this connection. With them they could tell Norwegian children and adults about their everyday life, despite the lack of a common tongue and a distance half the world away.

The motifs are entirely the childrenís choice. The only thing I asked them to do was tell stories from their daily life with the pictures. Otherwise they had free reign. Some of them had taken pictures before, others held a camera for the very first time. That fact made it very exciting for both them and me.

From the huge amount of pictures, Iíve tried to pick motifs that I think show different sides of these childrenís lives. On the way I had many surprises and acquired new knowledge.

  PlayThe pictures show eagerness, interest and joy. I hope the exhibition touches those who attend it and that maybe they will be inspired to reflect upon their own daily life. The pictures you see are all taken by different children, at home or school. Iíve never seen such pictures before. I could never have taken them myself.

I have cooperated with Save the Children, Norway, and they helped me to get in touch with the children in Phnom Penh.

The exhibition has already been shown in Norway twice. In February it will open at a conference for journalists, and later at a museum in Trondheim, where children from different schools will be invited to take part.

My plan is to take the exhibition to Phnom Penh in October. Then the children who took the pictures finally will have an opportunity to take part in the exhibition. More information will follow at this website. I want to thank Mick for letting me write about the project, and Save the Children Norway for helping me get in touch with the photographers.


Rock2243Gaye set off from 




Rock2243Gaye set off from

  It is now November 2004.  Anne-Lise has just brought us up to date on the status of her project. She says:  
  "I worked all spring to get money or sponsors to take the exhibition. Save the Children, Norway, decided to help me. So I was planning my trip the last week of October (2004) and had started to plan workshops and other things to do. But suddenly everything changed for me, since I had got ill. Still, now I am feeling very well, and are working and living as usual.

But because of the illness I couldn't go to Cambodia this autumn. Lena (Richter, Save the Children Norway's Director in Cambodia) promised me that the exhibition will be taken care of, and that all the children involved will get to see it, and write their own texts to the pictures.

I also have a copy of the exhibition in Norway so it is possible for local Save the Children groups to use it.

In fact this summer the exhibition attended a big culture festival in the north of Norway".


Rock2243Gaye set off from

Rock2243e-mail Anne-Lise Aakervik
Rock2243The Cambodian tragedy - why Anlong Veng?
Rock2243The Anlong Veng project
- what is it?
Rock2243Anlong Veng diary  - March 2000
Rock2243Siem Reap diary - June 2000
Rock2243Phnom Penh diary - November 2000
Trapang Prasat diary - June 2001
Angkor Chum diary - June 2001
Rock2243Phnom Penh & Tuol Sleng - March 2002
Rock2243Trapang Prasat diary - April 2002
Rock2243Angkor Chum diary - April 2002
Rock2243Cambodia Diary - March 2003
Rock22433 Year Project Report - May 2003
Rock2243Anlong Veng, Preah Vihear & Kulen District - February 2004
Rock2243Anlong Veng, Trapang Prasat & Preah Vihear - March 2009

Rock2243Mary Sarath's Journal - Anlong Veng to Preah Vihear - March 2009

Rock2243Matt Warren's Times Educational Article - January 2002
Rock2243Gaye Miller's story - a container from Melbourne 1 - September 2003
Rock2243Gaye Miller's story - a container from Melbourne 2 - October 2003
Rock2243Anne-Lise Aakervik's project - children taking photographs - February 2004
Rock2243Gaye Miller's story continued 1 - April/May 2005
Rock2243Gaye Miller's story continued 2
- April/May 2005

Rock2243Slide Presentation to King Edward's School, Bath - November 2002

Rock2243Books on Cambodia
Rock2243'net links Cambodia

Rock2243Angkor photos - March 2000
Rock2243Anlong Veng photos -
March 2000
Rock2243Trapang Prasat photos -
March 2000
Rock2243Trapang Prasat photos - November 2000
Rock2243Angkor photos - June 2001
Rock2243Trapang Prasat photos - June 2001
Rock2243Angkor Chum photos - June 2001

Rock2243Phnom Penh photos - March 2002
Rock2243Tuol Sleng (S-21) photos - March 2002
Rock2243Trapang Prasat photos
- April 2002
Rock2243Angkor Chum photos
- April 2002

Rock2243Anlong Veng & Trapang Prasat photos - March 3 2003
Rock2243Angkor Chum & Varin photos - March 4 2003
Rock2243Svay Leu photos - March 5 2003

Rock2243Siem Reap / Artisans d'Angkor - February 20 2004
Rock2243Anlong Veng & Trapang Prasat - February 21 2004
Rock2243Dangrek Mountains & Preah Vihear Temple - February 22 2004
Rock2243Kulen District & Koh Ker Temple - February 23 2004

Rock2243Anlong Veng, Trapang Prasat & Preah Vihear - March 2009


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