31 January 2013

Water of Hope


Last Sunday saw another long tuk-tuk ride into the countryside, this time with Marianne and Narong to see the work being done by their Water of Hope Association. We headed out to an area near the West Baray, close to the Angkor Wat complex, firstly on the new Korean-built Ring Road, then on dirt roads, but nowhere near as bumpy or dancing as the previous day.

At our first stop a new well was being dug, by hand, simply by twisting and turning a thin metal pole into the ground, with water blasting through the hollow metal pole to help with the digging process. More metal poles were added the further down they dug. These poles would eventually be replaced with blue plastic tubes and connected to a hand-operated pump – providing they found a clean water source in their hole. There was no fancy testing equipment for the ground or the water quality – it was partly reliant on the skill of the engineer who guided the digging and partly on luck, though they were digging very close to the family’s previous water source, a well.


It was a very primitive well – more a large round hole in the ground. The earth wasn’t lined with anything, the water quality looked poor, and there was nothing to stop people or wildlife from falling in and contaminating the water. In fact, it had several frogs living in it, so was already contaminated by their presence!

The recipients of this new water pump are a newly married husband and wife living in a simple one-room hut made of wood and palm fronds. The husband was out doing some agricultural labouring work to earn money to feed them. The wife, who looked in her late teens, was cooking over a simple wood fire.


They had a rooster and a couple of chooks, with chicks, so may have had a few eggs to eat, but they exist primarily on rice and vegetables, and things they might find through foraging, like the frogs and various insects. In the season, they would grow rice on their small, perhaps quarter-acre section, but the season is now over so their plot was dry and barren, except for a few plants that looked like squash or marrow.

Water will mean they can grow more during the dry season, but they also need seeds and manure, and some instruction in sustainable agriculture would not go amiss. These are all things the Water of Hope Association plan for the future.

The family also had three dogs, two of them puppies, all in pathetic condition – thin and stumbling and lacking energy. I actually thought the smallest puppy was dead when I first saw it. The woman fed these animals on cooked rice while we were there, not something that will sustain them long term but, as the family themselves probably eat meat only rarely, there seems no hope for improvement in the dogs’ diet.

Neighbouring women and their kids came over to see what was happening and we got some good photos of them, probably the first time they’d ever been photographed!

The second place we visited was a success story. The pump had been installed in December 2012 and the two little huts were surrounded by small plots of the bright green shoots of various vegetables: corn, beans and morning glory. The benefits of the water were plainly visible and the young man who came out to pump the water for our photos grinned widely, obviously pleased and proud of his new tool! 
We had one more stop, just along the road from the second. Their pump had also been installed quite recently and two women were using the water when we arrived, but there was little evidence of its being used for anything agricultural, even though the family had a reasonable sized plot for cultivation. This is where the agricultural advice would be beneficial, as well as seeds to plant. The only food we saw was a metal basin full of small live crabs that probably came from the roadside ditch full of water, and the ubiquitous bag of rice.

Water of Hope needs help. It costs just US$350 to fund a new well and water pump for a family, a pump that can and does change and save lives. You can find more details about the Water of Hope Association on their Facebook page. Even if you can’t afford a well, a small donation will still buy seeds, and help bring the poverty-stricken of Cambodia the assistance they desperately need.