Yos Sokny is 40 and lives with her husband, Phon Daoy, 44, and their three children, ages four to 17, in a western Cambodian village. The family does not own land. So, they live on public land alongside railroad tracks in a very vulnerable situation. To live they rely mostly on Daoy’s income from being a duck egg incubator in another person’s business. His annual earnings from this job, which he got just last year, are about $1,500. This is much more than he earned as a casual laborer. Still, it is not enough. So, Sokny works as a casual laborer during rice sowing and harvest seasons, earning $150 during just three months of the year.
Like countless Cambodian families facing the many challenges that stem from being landless and poor, Sokny and Daoy incurred debt just to get by. Eventually they decided that their oldest daughter must drop out of school. And for the past couple years she has also done seasonal wage labor to help support the family. Luckily for him, their son still attends school – for now.
Seeing the family’s challenges, early this year, staff from CWS partner, Rural Development Association met with the family to understand how Promoting Better Lives might help them start to improve their situation. Because they do not own the land they live on, the family cannot benefit from the home-gardening and livelihoods development support – yet. But, Sokny realized that they family could benefit from knowing more about how to improve their health and hygiene. So, she joined WASH education activities and learned about water treatment options, personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, including the harm of open defecation. Along with education, Sokny also received support to build her own sanitary latrine.
With gratitude for this small improvement, Sokny said, “My family is poor so we could never afford to have our own latrine. I am happy for the support so we can stop defecating in the open”. Not only is the family relieved of the embarrassment of such a humiliating situation, Sokny added, “We now see how the latrine and good hygiene have helped us improve our health”. She noted that family members rarely get sick, so they don’t spend as much money as before on clinic visits and medicines. These savings alone have also helped the family improve its situation. Now that the family has small savings and Daoy has a better job, CWS will continue working with them to see if there are other ways to help them improve their lives”.
(For more information please contact MSophalcws@cwsglobal.org )