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Cambodia - home of the famous Angkor Wat and numerous other archaeological sites. Known for its rich history and culture, many visitors are not aware of the country’s urgent need for clean water. As a tourist, bottled water is stocked in hotel rooms and readily available in most shops, but for many locals clean water isn’t affordable or accessible.
In October, our team saw the opportunity to head down for some work on the ground. The goal was to check on a few of the ROAMfilter™ Plus systems that we installed earlier this year, and to learn about its impacts from the beneficiaries themselves. With water filters and camera equipment in tow, four of us hopped onto a plane towards the Kingdom of Cambodia!
Wateroam team heading towards Takeo Province
Day 1: Insight into micro-entrepreneurship
After arriving in Phnom Penh, we set south on our journey towards Takeo Province. The 2-hour car ride was filled with interesting sights as we watched the locals bustle off with their daily lives. Driving through the winding roads of Cambodia proved to be a challenge though; It was tough to navigate past the many vehicles and scooters around us.
Trapang Vihear Village
Nonetheless, the real work only started when we set foot in Trapang Vihear Village, one of the communities that we’ve impacted with the water filtration system. The villagers previously faced a lack of clean water, and most had to travel to other villages to buy drinking water. That was not only time consuming, but it was also disruptive to their daily livelihood.
Under the Wateroam Partnership Programme, we worked with New Life Foundation to come up with a solution for the people of the village anchored off the deployment of our ROAMfilter™ Plus. You can read more details about the micro-entrepreneurship project here.
We chat with Chhoun Chathy on her journey as a micro-entrepreneur
First, we had a nice chat with Chhoun Chanthy, a local farmer who aspired to make a difference in her community through clean water. Trained by Wateroam and New Life Foundation to be one of our micro-entrepreneurs, she is glad to see progress in her village.
When we asked what inspired her to contribute to the water project, she told us: “the children who came here to study would drink the rainwater or bring water from home”. As a mother of five, she was always worried about her children’s health. She hopes for a better future for them and that was her motivation to bring about change.
Helping Chhoun Chanthy distribute the water is Neang Sokun, a local friend that farms and fabric weaves as well. With the same heart to bring in clean water for her children, she volunteered as a distributor to sell the containers of water to the community.
After a hearty lunch together
Our trip down to Trapang Vihear Village was a heartwarming one indeed and it filled us with delight to see the villagers brimming with such joy.
Chase from Wateroam showing our ROAMfilter™ Plus to the students
Day 2: ROAMfilter™ Plus for school projects
After starting off on a good note, our team is back in Phnom Penh. That afternoon, I headed down with another team member to the outskirts of the city The plan was to pay a visit to Liger Leadership Academy, an institute that Wateroam is actively partnering with.
We were pleasantly greeted by the teachers and students with a warm welcome. The students were really friendly and excited to find out more about us!
Founded by couple Trevor and Agnieszka, the academy takes a different approach to education – one that aims to bring out the potential of entrepreneurship and leadership in promising youths. Their curriculum goes beyond the classroom and there were plans to bring in the ROAMfilter™ Plus for a student project.
The goal was to use the filter as an educational tool to teach them about the existing water issues in rural areas of Cambodia. The students at Liger Leadership Academy have been using the filter to test different types of water sources during school excursions to villages in the vicinity.
The visit was definitely memorable as the academy provided a unique learning experience that we’ve not seen elsewhere. It was also inspiring to see how passionate and outspoken the students are at school.
Day 3: Visits to the health centres
After another 2-hour ride from Phnom Penh the previous night, we started a fresh day in the province of Kampong Chhnang.
Our first stop that morning was Kampong Chhnang Health Centre, where we met up with some of the members of the Water and Healthcare (WAH) Foundation. The WAH Foundation is a Cambodian non-government-organization, and like us, they aim to improve the water conditions of Cambodia’s rural communities.
Jaron from Wateroam with members of WAH Foundation
We partnered with them to install the ROAMfiter™ Plus throughout health centres in that area, and we’re back on the ground for a review and to see the impact of our work!
At first glance, the health centre is a bustling place brimming with patients and visitors alike. Scooters were parked at its entrance, and there were pregnant mothers, children and families waiting for their appointments. It is one busy health centre, but efficient and well managed. It was a relief to see many locals using the filtered water, and to know that the health centre has water that is safe for consumption.
Our second stop was Prey Mou Health centre, a facility that is a little more remote but abundant with scenic views. Although It was definitely a little quieter compared to the first health centre, it was equally important to have the filter system installed in place.
For a healthcare facility, we understand how important it is for visitors to have easy access to clean drinking water. After all, it is the essence to good health and a good start to preventing diseases in the first place. Clean water is also crucial for sanitizing, and infections can be avoided by keeping wounds free from bacteria.
For pregnant women and mothers, exposing them to contaminated water puts them at the risk of maternal complications that could cause severe impacts. This includes abnormalities in the growth of the baby, or even the death of both mother and child.
We’re glad to know that the filters are serving the communities well, and we hope that the health conditions of the locals will see improvements in the near future.
Day 4: Chat with a local doctor
Despite our fully packed schedule over the past three days, our team is not ready to leave yet. We made our way to our final stop – Akphiwatt Health centre to meet Doctor Ung Vongdon.
Through him, we learnt that this health centre had been dependent on a well previously. It was not until four years ago that the centre gained a convenient source of drinking water, only after WAH Foundation installed a filter on the premises.
He also mentioned his hopes for the future, when the health centre will be revamped into a hospital with more doctors and better medical services.
One good point that he highlighted in our conversation was the importance of imparting knowledge to the villagers. Many still use water from wells or even dig near the rice fields and drink the water directly from it without disinfection or boiling.
It reminded me once again that the road to ending thirst is more than just bringing clean water to people, but there is also the need for education to help people avoid such situations.
Grace from Wateroam, the author of this blog post
For my first trip with Wateroam, it was definitely an eye-opening journey that was not just exciting but also filled with personal takeaways. Working in the office, I was always aware of the ongoing water issues and how the filter works to generate clean water. However, being down on the ground was a whole new experience. I got the opportunity to talk to the locals; I got to see how Wateroam really plays a part to make a difference. It was rewarding to form a personal connection with the beneficiaries of our work, and I realized that our water filters bring more than clean water.
They not only bring extra income, but they also give the locals an enriched livelihood that includes creating new jobs, and even businesses. This trip also reminded me of how real the water issues are in the world, and the very reason I joined Wateroam. With that, I return home with a deeper connection to our mission and a stronger dedication to our cause.
Did you know, 525,000 children under 5 die from diarrhoeal diseases every year? Millions more fall ill due to water-borne diseases caused by the lack of access to clean drinking water.
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Marcus is a water evangelist whose passion lies in ending prolonged thirst.