Most of us recycle trash to keep our forest's green, our water clear, and our landfills manageable. For a young mother living at Stung Meanchey, a place once called the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia, the act takes on a more pressing purpose—Sang Ly is hoping to save her son.
"If it sounds dramatic, it is," says Trevor Wright, a young filmmaker who documented the family's story. Wright had traveled to Cambodia with plans to make a documentary about the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF), an organization that helps the city's poorest children. His plans changed after a chance meeting with Sang Ly at the city dump.
Wright notes, "The family was living amongst the trash in a three-walled shack with no running water, no toilet and no electricity. To survive, they'd dig through the garbage to find and sell plastic, glass and metal. Their youngest child was extremely sick and though Sang Ly had taken him to countless western doctors, nothing had helped. Finally, she got the notion into her head that she needed to take him back to her childhood province to see the local Healer."
It's a journey documented on film that provides a rare glimpse into ancient Cambodian healing methods. Amazingly, when the filmmakers returned weeks later, the child had fully recovered. Ancient healing had worked where western medicine had failed. Equally as impressive to Wright was the mother's relentless dedication to her child—and he wasn't the only one who noticed.
The filmmaker's father, Camron Wright, was so inspired by the woman's resolve to help her children, that he wrote a novel with Sang Ly as the main character. His first book, Letters for Emily, was an international bestseller ten years earlier, but he'd been unable since to find a story as compelling—until he met Sang Ly.
Wright adds, "Though she lives in a garbage dump, she's not looking for a handout. I quickly realized that her most pressing aspirations are no different than mine—she wants to educate her children, better her family's situation and find hope. She's inspiring. I couldn't help but write about her."
Both the documentary and book are now available nationwide. To learn more, visit www.TheRentCollectorBook.com
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