Sopheap’s First Steps on a Long Journey Toward a Better Family Life

CWS Cambodia | June 16, 2019

Sopheap caring for her latrine. Photo: CWS

Oum Sopheap is a 64-year-old widow living in Nikom Kandal village in western Cambodia with her infant great granddaughter. Her two teenage grandchildren, whose parents died many years ago, are the breadwinners even though they are only 15 and 18 years old. Since she owns no land and is too old to work as a wage laborer herself, Sopheap relies on their earnings to manage their home and meals for the baby while they work as daily wage laborers at the Cambodian-Thai border. They earn very low wages. After paying for their food and housing, plus bribes to police to look the other way because they work illegally, they can send about one dollar a day to Sopheap and the baby. Of course, this family came to CWS attention to be prioritized for support.

Soon after meeting Sopheap, CWS partner Rural Development Association team members started working with her so she could start improving her situation. First, Sopheap joined WASH education activities to talk about household water treatment and environmental sanitation to better support the baby’s wellbeing. Sopheap’s key learning was about the harm of open defecation and the germs and harm that could easily affect the baby.

Along with education, Sopheap also received help to build a sanitary latrine, which she is grateful to have for her own wellbeing and comfort as well as the baby’s health. She is grateful, especially, to not need to go out to the jungle at night for toileting. Clearly, the family’s situation is still extremely precarious with the teenage single mother and her younger brother working illegally as they are. But, CWS staff are hopeful that Sopheap’s continued engagement with Rural Development Association will give them better opportunities in the future – which CWS will track to ensure.

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