In the Pouk District of Cambodia, outside of Siem Reap, over 7,000 people live and work in less-than-favorable conditions. Despite a rich heritage and beautiful culture, the people in this region are suffering from extreme poverty and, as a result, do not have the resources or the knowledge for how to access clean water.
Due to lack of infrastructure upkeep and sanitation funding by their government, Cambodians’ clean water sources have been severely contaminated for years. Cambodia has the highest rate of open defecation in the region, with eight in ten of the poorest rural villagers using fields, open bodies of water, and open spaces for bathrooms. This is due to a lack of sewers, plumbing, toilets, and any bathroom facilities. Human waste enters the waterways and into houses, spreading diseases quickly and putting children and families at risk. One in three Cambodians use water from a non-improved source and are not able to separate human waste from their freshwater.
Villagers are often showering, bathing their children, cooking their meals, cleaning their homes, and staying hydrated using contaminated water which in many cases is bringing severe illnesses. Over 60% of Cambodians do not have access to clean water, but a single clean water well can provide clean drinking water to 200 people and the cost is only $375.
The clean water struggle is something Advancing Life Foundation and its partners at Vision Cambodia are hoping to remedy. By helping fund the installation of seven new water wells, Advancing Life has already helped make an impact in the area and things continue to improve. While other organizations have installed wells that go down 10 feet, they often prove ineffective since they aren’t dug deep enough. Each Vision Cambodia well is dug 30 meters or almost 100 feet into the ground. This prevents all contaminants from entering the well. If the well isn’t dug deep enough it will empty during the dry season, a time when the water becomes murky and algae tend to thrive and destroy fresh drinking water.
Vision Cambodia determines where wells should be based on the economics of each family and places a well next to the poorest families or those who are going to have a baby. They’ve identified over 2000 spots where they can dig and build a well. When the family lives next to a well and has access to clean water they see a dramatic improvement in health and use the money they otherwise would spend on medical expenses to feed their families.
A typical day for an adult starts at dawn working in the rice fields during the rice-growing season. Children go to school, but when they aren’t in class they search the mud for fish or frogs to contribute to the family meal that evening. Their main objective as a family each day is to simply find food to eat, which can prove quite difficult some days. Most days their meal is a soup made of rice, fish, and frogs. Advancing Life Foundation will be planting extensive gardens during two expeditions to Cambodia in 2020 in order for families to have something more to maintain and eat.
Vision Cambodia also helps with medical clinics around several villages. Women in the area are more likely to give birth in the rice fields without any medical help at all due to a lack of
money. Babies and mothers tend to suffer when conditions are not hygeinic nor do they have clean water. They need a sterile environment in order to avoid infections, illness, and possible death. Vision Cambodia gives each mother $15 to go to the clinic and cover her medical expenses and then $20 after the labor for baby supplies like diapers, clothing, blankets, and bottles. The clinic is caring for 1-2 women a day on average and the need continues to grow.
Advancing Life Foundation recently received updates on some of the newly installed wells and the families who use them. Most of the families are self-employed local farmers. As many as 5 to 10 families are currently using each new clean water well, and many of them are children who are recovering from illnesses due to contamination.
For the Beung Keuy family, the well has made an impact on the health and well-being of their nine-month-old baby, who has suffered from sickness for months due to contaminated water and could not even be taken to the hospital due to lack of funds. This well is literally saving the child’s life.
Now that a well has been built next to their home, the child has been thriving and the mother has used the extra money saved from medical expenses to build a storefront onto her home, where she will run a local shop and business. In just four short months since the well has been built, it has literally changed everything for this family.
A young boy from the Pon Pha family has had bouts of hospital stays after drinking contaminated water from a pond nearby. Now that the family has a well with clean water, he is already thriving.
Vision Cambodia employs locals to install the wells, which not only provides clean drinking water but much-needed employment and vocational training to villagers. All the donations given to Vision Cambodia are given back to the people since 100% of the funds go to the villagers and all the work is donated by U.S. volunteers. This effort is already changing lives, and Advancing Life is excited about a partnership that yields more possibilities to help families in Cambodia moving forward.