Thriving against the odds: how one Cambodian village is overcoming challenges

Salin lives in rural Cambodia, where nearly a third of the population lacks access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

As a school principal and farmer, Salin also struggled to access clean drinking water, with the nearest water well over 1.5 kilometres from her village.

“My life is just like the people in my village,” said Salin. “I work as a school principal, earning only one salary, and doing a little farming so we can eat.”

The lack of clean water and poor toilet facilities has had a significant impact on children at Salin’s school. Many students at the school miss classes due to illness or because they had to work in the fields.

“There was a lack of hygiene awareness and food in our village. Most children were malnourished and the people often got sick because of the lack of toilets,” Salin said.

With the encouragement of the other school teachers and the villagers, Salin joined the Upholding Community Dignity Together program, run by local partner HURREDO and supported by Caritas Australia. In the program, Salin participated in: water management, chicken raising, business management and hygiene awareness training.

A 10,000L water distribution station was constructed in the village and Salin was elected as the chairperson of the water station committee. She used the skills she learnt from the program to help supply clean water to people in her village, teach community members how to clean toilets, promote hygiene to school children, and manage the water distribution station to ensure villagers can access safe water.

“I am proud that I can help the community have access to safe water,” Salin said. “I did not expect that I could do that. By dedicating time, resources, and energy to the community, I can understand community issues and priorities and help my community.”

The program helped construct community water ponds in Salin’s village and distributed hygiene materials in schools. It also provided small business training to help farmers maximise their profits.

Salin and her family no longer have to pay for transported water, instead they have access to clean water and are able to raise chickens to supplement their income. There are toilets for students to use and facilities for them to wash their hands. The children at her school attend classes more regularly now as they are less likely to get sick and no longer have to walk long distances to collect water.

“Life is brighter than before. Because of my work for the community, many villagers and other people know me. Most importantly, my family is healthy,” Salin said.

Salin remains committed to devoting her time and skills to helping others, particularly children. Her dream is for all children in her village to be healthy and to attend school regularly.

“On behalf of the people in village I want to thank the people of Australia for helping my community.”

This program is also supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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Caritas Australia

Caritas Australia, a Catholic Agency for International Aid and Development, is part of a global network that spans over 200 countries and territories. For over 110 years, Caritas has worked towards the creation of a just world. In 1964, Caritas began in Australia.

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