In 2013, I traveled along with volunteers from Team Never Settle to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The city is a popular tourist destination because of the historic and beautiful temples throughout Angkor Wat. But if you look past the beautiful scenery and hostels catering to relatively wealthy Westerns, you will see a much bleaker story. Siem Reap is a perfect example of the “urban water crisis” that affects people living in large cities around the world. Many locations have access to electricity and even a municipal water supply that is piped in if they’re lucky. However, water provided by the city is almost never purified and citizens are not educated on the importance of basic hygiene. This leads to preventable deaths from water-borne illnesses such as dysentery or cholera.
Dirty water and poor hygiene negatively affect children the most. It’s common for Cambodian children to miss out on even a basic education like learning to read because they miss school due to illness. In the worst cases, these illnesses can be fatal. In Cambodia, 10% of babies die before the age of 1. Lack of clean water and sanitation often prevent children from reaching their full potential.
Team Never Settle was fortunate enough to visit Wat Chork Primary School after funding allowed Splash to install a water purification system, build hand-washing stations, and train teachers and staff on the importance of hygiene. Before, staff at Wat Chork had to buy bottled water for students which is costly and impossible to provide to every child. This was the first time Splash included sanitation training in addition to providing the highest quality of purified water. The results were overwhelmingly positive. The Director of Wat Chork explained to me that it was common for children, especially girls, to miss multiple days of class every month. Since the children received access to clean water and started washing their hands regularly, the director noticed that fewer children missed school due to sickness.
I brought a soccer ball as a small gift to the school in return for allowing us to visit for an afternoon. While playing with the kids (after class of course), I met a 10 year old boy named Long Sak Wan. He was very polite, and I could see he was smart despite our language barrier. With some help from a teacher, Long Sak Wan spelled his name for me in Khmer on my notebook. In return, I wrote his name in English, and gave him the paper. It’s so common for children his age to miss school due to dirty drinking water and poor sanitation. But thanks to you, Long Sak Wan has access to clean water at school and is learning the importance of daily hygiene. He is healthy, happy, and most importantly has endless potential for the future. I’ll never forget him or the children of Wat Chork Primary School, and I can never thank our supporters enough for giving them the opportunity provided by clean water.