Promoting Better Lives in Rural Cambodia: Stories of Success and Change Continue

CWS Cambodia | November 18, 2017

Pring with her grandchildren. Photo: CWS

Eighty percent-plus of Cambodians live in rural areas, and more than 40% of these people have no access to improved water sources Poor sanitation is endemic with 50% of people defecating in the open (Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 2014). These circumstances, plus poor household hygiene leads to many preventable diseases and to a high prevalence of diarrhea as well, which is a major contributor to malnutrition in under-five children, 32% of whom are chronically malnourished or stunted (Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 2014) – a serious concern for its detrimental long-term consequences on health and economic development.

Promoting Better Lives is designed to optimize the impact of CWS work in rural communities, building local knowledge and capacity as well as providing material assistance to help communities increase safe water access; improve water use and hygiene practices; intensify and diversify agriculture and enhance income opportunities for the poor, poorest and other vulnerable groups. Promoting Better Lives builds on successful experience and extensive partnership with government-supported Commune Councils and Village Development Committees and Cambodian non-government organizations as well as technical support from government departments. Together with national and local government partners, Promoting Better Lives is now supporting especially poor and vulnerable families in 67 Battambang and Preah Vihear provinces to improve their water supply and hygiene-related behaviors, to intensify and diversify their agriculture and to enhance employment and earning opportunities.

Here are a few new stories of success as a result to CROP and other donors’ support for Cambodia.

Promoting Better Lives: New Sanitary Latrines for Especially Vulnerable Families

With funds remaining from a Week of Compassion-funded water, sanitation and hygiene promotion project called Teach WASH, which met its goals with some savings, 83 peoples in 18 families in Preah Vihear province in North Central Cambodia have had the chance to partner with CWS to build new, safe, sanitary latrines, which will help them improve family and home wellbeing for years to come.

Hean Chan said “I now reflect on my behavior and can see criticism as a way to improve my skills and develop myself”. Photo: CWS

Promoting Better Lives: Paying It Forward

Hean Chan is 43; he lives in Anlong Thmar village in Central Cambodia with his wife and teenage three boys, and he was been working with CWS since 2011 to help bring development and opportunity to his own family and to his village since then. In Anlong Thmar, as is hundreds of villages where CWS has invested for decades in helping people help themselves one effective way to support the community is to help create a Village Development Committee, of which Chan is a now an active member. He is working with CWS staff to help prioritize families most in need of development support based on his in-depth conversations with them about their hopes and plans, as well as their basic needs.

When CWS and our partners help communities form Village Development Committee, interested people have a chance to learn about self-governance and how to be an effective group working for others, plus coaching and ongoing support for things like planning, community project design and even funding proposal writing to attract outside help for their development. Other practical education and training workshops range from bookkeeping to First Aid; from reducing the impact of future disasters to understanding and promoting human rights; from communications and leadership skills to understanding women’s rightful roles in village governance.

The beauty of the Village Development Committee lies in its sustainability. The committee is formed by the community, and the CWS role is sharing information and, importantly, awareness of where more information can be accessed. There is also knowledge and skills development (as above) and not just material support. In fact, supplies are often part of our support, especially for most vulnerable families, and for collective community improvement, too. CROP funds often complement people’s own contributions to build community wells or household ceramic water filters or other materials to support improved hygiene and water access.

Besides all these clear impacts, a key one of which CWS staff and volunteers are most proud is that communities become better organized and unified; they have a more independent view and sense of themselves, and know they are able to address their own challenges and work together to fulfill their rights by drawing on their own knowledge, skills and community assets as well as outside information.

When asked about changes he has seen in Anlong Thmar since CWS first partnered with him and his neighbors, he said, “I have seen a lot of positive change and improvement. Now we have knowledge and skills. For example, like my wife, many families are better prepared, and equipped, to grow vegetables or raise chickens. This has meant that more families have enough to eat and the possibility to support themselves – by selling surplus produce. Families now understand the importance and practice of good hygiene, and almost all of us have a latrine and use a filter for our drinking water”. Chan has also felt the positive effects of the partnership with CWS in himself. “Before joining up with CWS, I was very hot tempered. I did not criticism and would get angry if my work was questioned. In working CWS team members, I’ve broadened outlook and my improved my abilities; I now reflect on my behavior and can see constructive criticism as useful. When we work with others, together we need to be flexible and that’s how we learn and change.” For sure, through CWS interest and investment, Chan’s village, his family and he have all done this.

Pring is very happy feeding catfish. Photo: CWS

Promoting Better Lives: Pring Takes CWS Up on an Opportunity to Change Her Family’s Life

Duk Pring, who is 55, lives in a very small and simple home in Rung Chrey village in western Cambodia with her husband, who is 80, and her three grandchildren, who all attend primary school. Pring and her husband do not work for pay and they live with support from their daughter, who works in Thailand. The family’s home lacks the basic amenities that many people are able to take for granted: running water, a toilet and electricity.

During regular staff outreach to some of Cambodia’s poorest families, CWS partner Rural Development Association met Mrs. Pring in November 2016 and, because of their clear vulnerability, especially with three young children and an elderly family member, they became CWS household partners. Like many family partners, when asked, Pring said she mostly wanted access to information and opportunity about how she could improve her family’s living standard. And, when hearing some of the options about ways in which she could benefit her family by partnering with Rural Development Association, she said she would like to try to raise fish to increase the amount and quality of food, and income, she could have for her family. In response, partner staff, some community leaders and Mrs. Pring herself worked to dig her pond for fish raising. As a household partner Pring was also able to access information, education and awareness sessions about personal and household hygiene and water safety and about additional ways, like growing mushroom, to earn money – and also how to join a savings group to start to protect herself and her family for emergencies.

Speaking with CWS staff recently, Pring offered her thanks to Rural Development Association and CWS say, “I’m very happy for the support to my family, and I thank CWS for helping me take good care of my family by giving me opportunity and support”.

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