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Children of Cambodia’s Trash Mountain
Life for some of Phnom Penh’s poorest families is a messy one. They live amid mountains of garbage in Stung Meanchey, the largest trash dump in Cambodia.
Trying to make a life out of another person’s trash is the reality for about 600 children who call this 75-acre catastrophic dump, their home. Photographer Leo Teoh, captures the innocence of the Cambodian children who are oblivious to the dangers of the mucky truth they call life.
City officials opened the dump to replace the Stung Meanchey landfill in 2009, after residents began falling sick. Built aboveground, the 44-year-old Stung Meanchey dump had morphed into a notorious symbol of international poverty after local NGOs and international coverage directed its attention on the families living on and around the toxic waste.
Some of these children were born there and deserted by their parents, others found their way from the streets, but all spend the day combing through rubbish to find edible waste or things to sell. At night, they dig caves in the trash mountain to sleep in, away from the rats.
They are nomads. They move from dump to dump when the one they’re at is full. Their whole life they are living in the dumps; they just move from one to another. The youngest have no concept of a world beyond the dump.