Sometimes we experience situations in Cambodia that hold so much emotion that it would be difficult to summarize in a short monthly newsletter paragraph. This was the case on August 3, 2023, when Melissa was honored to spend a day with the Clear Cambodia NGO leadership team members.
Clear Cambodia started in 1999 under Hagar, an anti-trafficking NGO. In 2010 they became their own registered NGO with a mission to serve communities needing clean water and good sanitation.
Recently, Melissa was asked to join their Board of Directors. In preparation for reading the documents and policies, she traveled with their team to see multiple project sites and hear testimonies of lives changed through their access to clean water.
The day was so fantastic that we decided to share a whole page about it instead of communicating with one paragraph in our monthly newsletter.
Van ride with Clear Cambodia
7:00 . . . the day starts!
I met up with the team at the Clear Cambodia office and stopped to eat a quick breakfast on the way out of town. We drove about 3.5 hours to Svay Rieng Province, right near the border of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Since we are in the middle of the rainy season, it is so lush and green and beautiful. On the way, I got to know the leadership team members and the depth of their experiences working with anti-trafficking NGOs and community development needs within Cambodia for decades.
CLEAR Cambodia village meeting
Stop #1: Greeting the village leader
The first place we visited was a small community’s local leader. There, we met with the leader of the village and his assistant. I was humbled to be asked to speak, and I let them know how much I loved their country and how thankful I was for this NGO that helps provide clean water.
They thanked Clear Cambodia for the access they had been given to clean water. Each family had saved to pay 20,000 riels for the filtration system in their home, equivalent to USD 5. They shared that there used to be so much more sickness in the village before the water went in. They also shared that this is the only NGO that has come out to help that village. It was a joy to meet them and learn about the impact that had been made.
Clean Water CLEAR Cambodia
We walked from house to house, with residents inviting us in to see their water filter systems and telling us about the difference in their lives. Each family paid 20,000 riels (USD 5) for the filter system, and the NGO covers the rest of the filter (approx. USD 60). Those who could not afford it were helped by their neighbors or leaders in the community who recognized the difference that clean water makes and helped meet the need. Several families we met only make an average of $5 or $6 a day to support their entire family. Chatting with the different families, seeing their filters, and engaging with them was incredible.
Clean water has made such a difference in this community. When families are not sick because of the water, the parents can continue to make an income working, and the children can continue their studies. A visit to the clinic because of dirty water can put a family in debt, make a child so sick they cannot attend school, and cause issues that quickly lead to exploitation and trafficking due to financial hardship and no other options.
I remember walking down the dusty road, laughing, talking with the employees of Clear Cambodia, and thinking how thankful I was for seeing this in person. I also found it heartbreaking that currently, these villages and families have only recently had access to clean water. I watched the process of a home filter installation while visiting one of the homes and was fascinated to see the process.
Every day here in Cambodia I am reminded of the things I have taken for granted and the privilege I have experienced in my life.
We went to visit two schools during the afternoon. Both locations excitedly welcomed us and proudly showed us the water systems, the hand-washing systems, and the safe, clean bathrooms Clear Cambodia had built. Like the village we were at, they told us how much this water was making a difference and that CC was the first NGO to come and help them.
The schools were very small, with 3 classrooms only for approximately 200 students. One of them did not even have fans inside. They shared with us the joys and the struggles of their situations and asked if we had resources or connections for them.
My brain was working in overdrive as I tried to think of ways to connect their needs with other resources available. Both schools expressed a deep thank you for the visit and the NGO’s involvement in their community.
The schools are responsible for building a safe and secure area for the water filter system to go in, and this little school could not afford it. They shared with me that former students who had gone on to study in Japan and Korea had heard of the need and donated money so that the water filtration system would be secure and enclosed.
A lack of clean water impacts lives in so many ways. Without it, children are too sick to attend school, parents cannot work to provide for their families, and the illness burdens families that cannot afford doctor bills. This can lead to families in desperate situations and at risk of being trafficked.
Thank you for your continued encouragement and support of our work in Cambodia. It is a joy to share perspectives and experiences as we learn and challenge ourselves. Hopefully what I shared about this day will inspire you to ask questions and explore ways of advocating for others!