Ms. Pha Phearun, who is 45, is the village chief of Kouk Sralau, Preah Vihear Province in northern Cambodia. She lives with her husband, who is a rice farmer, and their three children who are between 13 and 26 years old. The oldest child, a son, is disabled; the older daughter is married and helps with the farming, and the youngest child is in school. Phearun is passionate about contributing to her community, so in 2011 she became a Village Health Volunteer and was soon promoted to Deputy Village Chief for four years. Now as the village chief, Phearun works with all 127 of Kouk Sralau families, and her current mission is to help everyone improve their knowledge of nutrition.
Phearun does this primarily by working to educate mothers and to support them in learning to cook healthy foods for their young children, including an easy-to-make fortified porridge. The education includes a video presentation, recipes for cooking porridge, information about good hygiene in the kitchen and while feeding their young children.
In talking about her community engagement, Phearun said, “I want to see all my fellow villagers have better living conditions, and all our children growing up healthy”. To help make this so, Phearun takes part in monthly educational and feeding sessions, quarterly growth monitoring, support for strengthening children assessed to be underweight and regular sessions for mothers and expectant mothers who want to share their experiences and ask questions. For example, Phearun told us about Hem Sia, 22, who is a first-time mother to a nine-month-old son, and who was one of 12 mothers who joined a feeding session Phearun led. After their time together, Sia said, “Normally I cook porridge once a week for my son using only pumpkin”. But now that she has learned about other vegetables’ nutritional benefit, Sia says, “It is very good to learn how to cook a more nutritious food in a proper [hygienic] way for my child; now when I cook porridge for him, I will add more vegetables for sure”.