Salin lives in rural Cambodia with her husband and six-year-old daughter. While the national poverty rate in Cambodia has dropped from 50 per cent to 17 per cent in the past two decades, more than 2.8 million Cambodians still live under the poverty line, the majority of them in rural areas.
Salin’s family struggled to access clean drinking water regularly, with the nearest water well over 1.5 kilometres from their village. The alternative was to buy water transported by a truck, which can be expensive and means that Salin has fewer funds to spend on other essentials.
“There was no hygiene awareness and lack of food in our village. Most children were malnourished and the people often got sick because of the lack of toilets,” Salin said.
The lack of clean water, handwashing and toilet facilities significantly impacted the children at Salin’s school. As a school principal, Salin wants to see all the children in her village be healthy, attend school and complete their education.
But without adequate sanitation facilities, children are more likely to get sick and miss school. Most students at Salin’s school attended irregularly, missing classes because of illness or working in the fields to undertake manual work for their families.
With the encouragement of the teachers at her school and other villagers, Salin joined The Upholding Community Dignity Together program*, run by Australian Catholic Relief/Caritas Australia and with six local NGOs across Cambodia. She participated in training in water management, chicken raising, business management and hygiene awareness.
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 water. I did not expect that I can do that. By dedicating time, resources, and energy to the community, I can understand community issues and priorities and help my community."
Salin's family now has access to clean water, and she no longer has to spend as much money buying transported water. She is earning more income than before and raising chickens to sell for a profit.
But the most pleasing improvement for Salin is the transformation she has seen in her school. There are now toilets for students and facilities 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.
Although Salin leads a busy life as a school principal, she remains committed to devoting her time and skills to helping others and making sure her village can be prosperous for all people, particularly children. Her dream is for all children in her village to be healthy and to attend school regularly.
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“On behalf of the people in village I want to thank the people of Australia for helping my community and I will strive to maintain these achievements forever.”
*Along with your generous support, this program is also supported by the Australian Government, through Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).