By Mai Thi Quynh Giao, Administration-Finance Manager, and Leslie Wilson, Asia Regional Director.
Mrs. Lo Thi Cay is 55 and she lives in Na Dan #1 village in Than Uyen district in remote northern Vietnam. Fortunately, she is not among the poorest people in the village: her family has some land for rice farming, a few pigs to raise for eventual sale and a small fish pond that adds income when fish grow large enough to catch and sell. The family owns a clean, well-kept brick house; but in line with age-old customs and lifestyles among the Thai people who have lived in the area for more than 20 years, Cay’s family lives without a bathroom and toilet. Every day, she, her husband and their daughter go to a nearby stream for bathing and toileting. Imagine doing both those things in the same water! But, Cay thought it was normal and right do this. But then …
As part of continuing CWS partnership with the Vietnamese government and our funding partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Na Dan #1 village was priorities for action – especially for sanitation and hygiene activities. So, after joining the Community-led Total Sanitation mobilization session at the community house, and seeing some very graphic, real life examples of ways that bathing and toileting in the same place are bad for her family’s health, Cay understood the situation much better and said, “After attending the CWS-hosted gathering at the community house, I felt so disgusted about the unsanitary situation I was part of, I was determined to build a toilet for my family.” Like the other houses in the village, in January 2018, Cay’s family installed a toilet. And, because she and her husband are fortunate to be better off financially than most of their neighbors, Cay also built a bathing room next to the toilet.
She said, “For nearly 20 years, my daughter, husband and I have gone to the stream for open bathing and toileting. I didn’t like this as I knew, somehow, that it was not safe. But, we did it because we had no bathroom to use – not even information about a better way! But now, after CWS friends visited, my husband understood how to live in a healthier way, and he agreed to build the bathroom and toilet. I am so excited to have these.”
As part of the CWS-ELCA project, New Integrated Development and Essential Action (NEW IDEA) for Ethnic Minority Communities, community-led total sanitation mobilization started in Na Dan #1 village in September 2017. By January 2018 all 68 households had new hygienic latrines and the village is recognized as an Open Defecation Free community, which is a very important designation, and point of pride for villages, in rural Vietnam. Clearly, it can be said that all hundreds of people have better protected health now because of the teamwork the project has engendered to contribute positively in changing knowledge, awareness and behavior in rural Vietnam.
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