Hello Fellow Rotarians,

It is Monday night the 17th of November here in Siem Reap Cambodia. My first week has been busy and in keeping with the schedule and goals established in our grant request.

On Wednesday the 12th I met at "Water for Cambodia" (WFC) , our Rotary sponsored partner, with Nthabeleng, the Director, and Kristin, a consultant hired to develop our village survey and compile the data we produce.

We spent a few hours reviewing our grant application and synching it with reporting documents that are commonly used in gathering decision making data that will be used in the context of a global grant.

I devoted Thursday to the kids at the orphanage we supported last year. A glorious touching day spent with healthy, joyful children.

Just a quick word about the political subdivision of Cambodia. Cambodia is divided into Provinces which are further subdivided into Districts, Communes and lastly, Villages





Friday, November 14, 2014

I met Nthabaleng and Seur, the WFC field manager, in the morning at 8 AM and we traveled 60 miles to the District of Srey Snam to visit with the Chief of Slaeng Spean Commune. He invited two of his 15 Village Chiefs to join us.

It was a very fruitful meeting, and I was surprised at their grasp of the subject matter and statistics.

Their big concern was that the kids in the 10-year-old age range are getting what seemed to be a bladder infection or some kind of chronic kidney stones.  They treat the condition with some success with an antibiotic.

The situation in the two villages is truly unthinkable with very high rates of skin rash, urinary tract infections and diarrhea as they get their drinking water from open ponds, which are blatantly polluted by fecal matter during floods and heavy rains.

Neither village has any wells, electricity and but a few latrines.

The highest instance of disease is during the dry season when water is scarce.  Both villages are subject to floods of between 18’ and 3’ deep water for 10-14 days each year.  This puts all water sources under water

We gathered a lot of basic data during the visit and we will be enhancing what we got – population, households, adults, and children – with more detailed data on the poverty level of the village residents, single moms, and handicapped residents during our visits to the villages

We will be traveling long distances over dirt roads. We are having a serious discussion about the cost and efficiency of addressing these issues in such remote settings, but if we don’t, it is not likely anyone will. I think it is in the spirit of the Rotary to tackle this daunting task.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

At 8:20 AM we left ‘Water for Cambodia’ on one motor scooter, knowing we had a long day ahead of us.  Yesterday we logged 117 miles in the Toyota truck and today's exploration of the more remote villages will bring us 25 miles farther into the rice paddies.  By the end of the day we had logged 168.75 miles.  Seur’s bum was hurting and mine was terminal due to a seam in the seat, which was drilling a hole in my butt.  Our goal was to visit half dozen villages and stop and talk to the village chiefs and local leaders in at least a couple of the most critical villages.

This corner of Cambodia could be called ‘the forgotten villages’.

I’ll use the village of Kan Doi as our example:

Kan Doi has ninety-Six households with a total population of 399, one-hundred and twenty-two of which are children under 18.  The village which is spread over a large area has only two concrete toilets and one wooden toilet – basically, open holes with a concrete slab with a hole in it.  When it fills up, they dig a new hole, reroute the new waste to the new pit and fill in the hole of the old latrine. 

There is but one water source and that is a one acre pond, the water level of which is a reflection of the overall groundwater table.

In other words, it is not spring or stream fed, but is merely a large hole in the ground dug by the villagers.

This area gets flooded with up to 18” of water each rainy season so some of the fecal matter from 399 people defecating in the surrounding woodlands gets into the pond.  The other villages in the area also get their water from ponds.  Three of these villages, including Kan Doi, often run out of water during the dry season and then they travel by foot or bicycle to the large pond at the Pagoda a distance of ¾ of a mile to 3 miles.  We visited the Pagoda, and that pond is under stress as all three villages use it during the latter part of the dry season.

Kan Doi’s chief when asked what they do when the pond runs dry, which it has seven of the last ten years, says: ‘We dig deeper, chasing the water table as it recedes’.

The water from the pond needs to be boiled before use, putting a strain on the families’ budgets.  The imperfect boiling of pond water and poor hygiene leads to water-borne illness.

When I asked the village chief and other leaders what the biggest health problem was, they listed the following illnesses as follows:

1.    Flu;

2.    Urinary tract infections;

3.    Diarrhea.

 Another village chief listed urinary tract infections as number one and diarrhea as number two.

Interestingly, children between 10 and 12 years old are the most affected. As mentioned earlier we visited the Health Clinic, which is 25 miles from this area, to confirm the urinary track epidemic.  She confirmed it was the major problem and we ascertained that the nurse is treating it with antibiotics. 

We asked about:

Households:                        96

Population:                       399

Toilets:                                   3

Kids:                                   122

Wells:                                     0

Water Filters:                       0

ID#1:  Highest Poverty Level:                  22 families

ID#2:  Next to Highest Poverty Level:       10 families

Handicapped:                       1

Nr. of Female HOH:             7


It is interesting to note that these poverty levels are well documented.  Although anyone in this village far exceeds any poverty in the U.S., the classification of ID#1 or ID#2 mean that the household has no income, is starving, ill-housed and living in the worst of conditions.

The village leaders were very open to self-help.  For instance, if we would supply the dug well structures and toilet rings, they would organize the village to do all the digging, back-filling and placement.

They recommended strongly that toilets be put in to serve individual families and not be communal.

They did, however, agree – in fact, suggested – that three communal dug wells spread around the village would greatly alleviate not only the shortages, but also the time spent traveling to and from the ponds..

They were very excited about water filters and willing to conduct classes, inspections and regular maintenance to make it work.

During our travels, we visited with a couple families asking about their water situation and got the same feedback.

The villages in this area have a primary school (and we saw another one under construction).  If any of the kids wishes to attend secondary school, they ride their bikes on Monday 20-25 miles on dirt roads (and trails) to the High School and sleep on the floor of the classroom until Friday, and they then ride their rickety old single-speed bikes 25 miles home.

They might be some of the poorest people on earth, but they know the value of education.

Today, Monday the 17th, we finalized the questionnaire and we'll test it on I-Pads tomorrow, conduct training Thursday for our surveyors and head back to the villages on Friday.

That concludes my report.  Thanks for your interest,

RichImageMeeting with village leaders in Kan Doi

ImageChildren at play in Kan Doi


Image Boys in neighboring village filling rusty 55 gallon drums with drinking water from a road side ditch. They both have had urinary tract infections and stated they "usually" boil the water before use. This is the village's main water source. Please notice the plastic being used to slow the flow of the water.


ImageKan Doi village water supply. This pond, dug by the villagers by hand, is the only source of water in the village and has gone dry 7 of the last 10 years