Lien AID Shines the Spotlight on WASH Heroes in Myanmar

This Global Handwashing Day, non-profit organisation Lien AID is shining the spotlight on some individuals who are striving to improve safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access in their communities – local WASH heroes. Through its interventions, Lien AID seeks to enable these local WASH heroes to accelerate and sustain safe WASH access in rural communities across the Ayeyarwady.

U Soe Thein, Village Tract Administrator of Kan Gyi village tract, Myaungmya township, is a WASH Hero who has been a driving force in promoting safe hygiene behavior in the villages he manages. He encourages health assistant to conduct frequent hygiene promotion sessions and at the same time, urges villagers to attend these sessions during his regular village meetings.

As part of the pilot collaboration between Lien AID and the Myaungmya Township Department of Rural Development, U Soe Thein also played a key role in working closely with the water management committee in Kan Gyi village to canvas for additional funds to improve existing village water infrastructure. Research has shown that safe hygiene is less likely to be practiced in households that do not have readily available water (source).

Villagers collecting water at one of the water collection points. U Soe Thein played a key role in working closely with the water management committee in Kan Gyi village to canvas for additional funds to improve existing village water infrastructure.

U Kyaw Min Oo, a member of the water management committee in Kan Gyi village, is another WASH Hero who is passionate about improving water access for his community. Working with village health assistants and the school development committee, he also helped find a way for the school to have access to clean water through a water filtering system. U Kyaw Min Oo also contributed significantly towards the construction, operations, and maintenance of water infrastructure in the village by mobilising households to contribute funds for capital costs and regular payment of user fees.

U Kyaw Min Oo also helped find a way for the village school to have access to clean water through a water filtering system

“The river is our main water source. We use this water for cooking, drinking, and washing. But now, with the new tube well, we have clean water. This is because of everyone’s contribution so we are all heroes”, U Kyaw Min Oo humbly said.

Villagers used to rely on river as the main water source

Tenacious and committed, local WASH Heroes like U Soe Thein and U Kyaw Min Oo play a critical role in improving and sustaining safe WASH access for rural communities. Mr. Koh Lian Hock, CEO of Lien AID commented, “We hope to recognise and encourage more local organisations and individuals to become WASH Heroes, and catalyse collective action towards the shared goal of 100% WASH access.”

Water is Luxury: Perspectives on Socially Inclusive Water and Sanitation Services and Enterprises

Why is clean water still a luxury for communities in Asia? And how is this issue being addressed today by non-profits, social enterprises, and the private sector? Last month, UBS staff in Singapore gathered to hear diverse perspectives on socially inclusive water and sanitation services and enterprises, in an event organised by Lien AID. Featuring a line-up of esteemed panellists from the social enterprise, impact investing, and international water sector, the panel discussion was held in conjunction with Lien AID’s Windows of Hope exhibition. The 2-day exhibition enabled UBS staff to travel virtually to a rural village and experience the impact of Lien AID’s clean water project in the community through immersive video.

The head of corporate communications at UBS, Ms Julie Yeo, made the opening remarks to a full audience, and welcomed them to the panel discussion. Mr Ian Chen, programme manager at Lien AID and the panel moderator, subsequently touched upon the discussion format which involved presentations by the panellists followed by an interactive question and answer session, covering sub-topics such as socio-economic impacts of inclusive water and sanitation services in developing economies, as well as the challenges and future opportunities within the space.

Ms. Rebecca Paranjothy, co-founder of Freedom Cups.

The first speaker, Ms Rebecca Paranjothy, cofounder of Freedom Cups, shared the positive social impact Freedom Cups has made through its socially inclusive enterprise approach towards menstrual hygiene and sanitation. Freedom cups is a social enterprise operating on a buy-1, give-1 model to distribute reusable silicone menstrual cups to women in rural communities.  Rebecca shared that almost a quarter of girls in rural countries drop out of school the moment their first period hits due to a lack of facilities or supplies. With the use of Freedom Cups, women will be able to get through a full month of school or work and not fall behind their male counter parts in terms of education or income.

Mr. Frodo Van Oostveen, Managing Director at The Water Agency.

Mr Frodo Van Oostveen, cofounder and managing director of The Water Agency, a network orchestrator for the international water sector, spoke next and explained the critical importance of collaborative partnerships in developing innovative approaches towards addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges. Frodo emphasised the importance of finding the right flow of collaboration and highlighted the need for governments to implement regulatory frameworks to ensure standards are met; for private companies to step forward with innovative ideas to address water challenges; and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to share local insights and building strong relationships on the ground.

Mr. Robert Kraybill, Managing Director, Portfolio Management at Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) Asia.

Mr Robert Kraybill, managing director of Portfolio Management of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) Asia, rounded up the panel presentations with insights on the role of impact investing in supporting and accelerating the growth of social enterprises in developing economies. IIX is the home of the world’s first social stock exchange and the world’s largest private placement platform for impact investing. Drawing on his experiences, Robert said that a key challenge for social enterprises is making clean water devices accessible and affordable for rural families that often live on $3 – $6 a day. He shared that a social enterprise in Indonesia was able to resolve clean water challenges with support from IIX by selling water filters to households on credit through the local women entrepreneur network.

During the interactive question and answer session, a wide range of related topics were discussed, such as increasing education on WASH issues, the application of financial engineering to ensure the sustainability of WASH initiatives, and ways in which technology and innovation can enable safe WASH access in developing nations. Insights from the panel forum pointed to the importance of collective effort to overcome complex WASH challenges and dialogue between governments, NGOs, foundations, and the private sector.

More about Lien AID:

Founded in 2006, Lien AID is a Singapore-based international non-profit organisation with the mission to improve the health and well-being of last-mile communities in Asia by enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation. Leveraging our ties with local governments, international foundations, and partners, we have successfully mobilised funds, knowledge, and technical skills to deliver water and sanitation interventions across 6 countries in Asia – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – in more than 3,000 villages, 80 schools, and 50 health centres. In the process, we have impacted the lives of nearly 1,000,000 people.

Thingyan momentum puts greater focus on Myanmar’s water needs

This Water Festival, amid splashy fun and communal gatherings, Myanmar will welcome not only the Myanmar New Year, but also the beginning of the UN International Decade (2018-2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

According to UN projections, by 2025, half of the countries across the world will face water stress or outright shortages. By 2050, as many as three out of four people could be affected by water scarcity[1]. The new Decade, in continuation of the ‘Water for Life’ Decade (2005-2015), will focus on sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives[2].

Resolving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges in Myanmar, as well as other Asian countries where rural communities are suffering from a lack of access to clean water, is key for Lien AID, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of last-mile communities in Asia by enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation.

Just last week, Lien AID concluded a month-long experiential public exhibition in Singapore titled Windows of Hope. Held in three public locations from March 20 to April 8, the exhibition allowed the public a unique chance to journey into rural Myanmar and Cambodia through virtual reality (VR) technology and physical installations, and see for themselves the region’s water challenges and what is being done to resolve them. The exhibition will continue to be open to companies who wish to host it in their premises.

A participant viewing the virtual reality video during the exhibition at 313@Somerset

Mr. Koh Lian Hock, CEO of Lien AID said: “Through the immersive 360° VR experience in Windows of Hope, we hope that more people will gain a better understanding of the impact of water challenges in our neighbouring countries. It takes collective effort across sectors – from governments to corporations, individuals, non-profits and academia – to solve the problem of sustaining access to clean water for the rural communities.”

In 2016, Lien AID launched a pilot clean water project in Tetma village, Mandalay, which consisted of a gravity-fed piped water system that distributes water from an existing tube well to shared water points in the village. Last year, Lien AID launched another pilot initiative in five villages across three townships in the Ayeyarwady region, enabling an estimated 3,866 villagers to gain improved access to clean water. In addition, the communities were also engaged through workshops on basic rural water management and hygiene, in an effort to raise their capacity and improve the sustainability of the project.

This year, Lien AID will continue to partner with local governments, civil society organisations and communities in Myanmar to improve overall WASH standards in the villages, as well as work on fostering institutional collaborations amongst government and non-government partners to meet the national 2030 WASH goals.

“The challenge often lies in understanding how to adapt solutions for specific locations, socio-political contexts and WASH issues, and ensuring sustainable outcomes. One key success we have achieved in Myanmar would be the strong working relationships that we have forged with our local partners, such as the Department of Rural Development, local civil society organisations and community leaders. These partnerships have enabled us to co-create solutions to enable access to clean water and sanitation for last-mile communities,” added Mr. Koh.

Lien AID first launched Windows of Hope last year, bringing it to various organisations in Singapore – AECOM, Allen & Gledhill, Arup, Asia-Europe Foundation, Credit Suisse, Ernst & Young and Expedia. More information on Windows of Hope can be found at http://www.lienaid.org/windowsofhope.

A version of this press release was published in Myanmar Business Today. 

Get a glimpse into life without clean water at Windows of Hope in the lead-up to World Water Day

Lien AID opens roving VR exhibition to the public for the first time to raise awareness on rural Asia’s water and sanitation crisis

This World Water Day (22 March), step into the shoes of over 200 million people in Asia who lack access to clean water at Windows of Hope, an experiential exhibition organised by Singapore non-profit organisation Lien AID. The roving exhibition aims to raise awareness on the region’s water challenges and what is being done to resolve them, by giving the public a unique chance to journey into Cambodia and Myanmar through virtual reality (VR) technology and physical installations.

Windows of Hope opens today and will be held at the following locations:

Date Time Location
20 – 21 March 2018 10am – 10pm 313@Somerset L1 Atrium
22 – 23 March 2018 8am – 8pm Ocean Financial Centre Open Space
2 – 8 April 2018 10am – 9pm Star Vista B1 Atrium

The VR video featured in Windows of Hope was shot in Preaek Chrey Village, Kandal Province in Cambodia. The villagers in the often-flooded rural area mostly rely on dirty river water or rainwater for drinking, cooking and washing. It is estimated that prior to Lien AID’s intervention, villagers spent on average 25 to 40 minutes preparing water (collecting, filtering, boiling, etc.) before drinking it. The alternative source of clean water was imported bottled water sold by a private company in Vietnam, which costs up to 3,000 Riel/bottle (USD 0.75).

Worker cleaning and disinfecting the bottles inside the water treatment plant at Preaek Chrey commune

To address this challenge, Lien AID has set up a water treatment and bottling plant in Preaek Chrey village that benefits the entire commune. The plant is operated and run by a water entrepreneur selected from local villages through a rigorous evaluation process, and a water management committee comprising local government officials was also formed to regulate the provision of water services. They were subsequently trained in basic rural water management and business skills. 75 such projects have been completed in Cambodia, and this project in Preaek Chrey village alone enabled an estimated 3,624 villagers from 929 households across Preaek Chrey commune to gain better and more affordable access to clean drinking water.

Last year, Lien AID also launched new pilot initiatives across three townships in the Ayeyarwady region in Myanmar, enabling an estimated 3,866 villagers to gain improved access to clean water. In 2018, Lien AID will continue to partner with the local government to empower and equip community leaders to improve overall WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) standards in the villages, as well as work on fostering institutional collaborations amongst government and non-government partners to meet the national 2030 WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) goals.

Globally, more than two billion people drink unsafe water, and over 4.5 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, according to a report[1] released in March by the United Nations and World Bank Group. Through Windows of Hope, Lien AID hopes to reach out to a much wider audience and galvanise greater support in solving the root cause of the water and sanitation crisis. Individuals can make a difference simply by sharing about the issue on social media and helping to generate greater awareness of Lien AID’s work. Companies which would like to offer their employees a unique opportunity to experience immersive 360˚ technology and play a part in bringing clean water to rural communities in Asia can also contact ruiyan.yong@lienaid.org for the roving exhibition to visit their offices.

More information on Windows of Hope can be found at http://www.lienaid.org/windowsofhope.

The Jaggery Trader

Ko Hmat Kyi, 46, is a small business owner in Tetma village, located in the Dry Zone of Myanmar. He supports his family through his palm tree and vegetable plantations. To make enough jaggery for trading, he has to climb 30 tall palm trees twice a day using a basic ladder made from two tall bamboos.

The sugary sap is collected using a number of small earthen jars. After that, the liquid is mixed into a large pot, boiled and stirred until it thickens to a paste. The worker would then knead the product into small chunks which hardens after being cooled. Inside the rudimentary kitchen where the jaggery is prepared, the air is hot, dense and sweet.

In the past, Ko Hmat Kyi had no choice but to send his eldest son to fetch water in the day as his time was fully occupied with his jaggery business. To get clean water, his son often had to travel to a neighbouring village and queue for two to three hours to wait for his turn at the tube well or hand pump. This also meant that on days when he went to collect water, he would have to miss school.

Ko Hmat Kyi and his family

Things got better for Ko Hmat Kyi’s family in 2016. In partnership with Myanmar Engineering Society (MES), Lien AID completed a pilot project in Myanmar, enabling villagers in Tetma village to gain better access to clean water via a solar-powered, gravity-fed water distribution system.

Ko Hmat Kyi told us that better access to clean water has not only made life more convenient for his family, but it also led to an improvement in the school grades of his eldest son. He was able to pass his university entrance exams and now studies at a university in the city of Yangon.

Read more about our pilot project in Myanmar here.

Office workers get transported to Cambodia via immersive 360° VR to experience life without clean water

Lien AID’s inaugural “Windows of Hope” roving VR exhibition helps staff of Expedia and other companies understand the region’s water challenges & development work

The Singapore NGO seeks the support of private sector organisations to bring clean water to Asia’s rural poor in Cambodia, Myanmar & China

Imagine having to collect rainwater every day, and spending at least 30 minutes treating it before you can even take a sip. More than 200 million people in Asia still lack access to clean water and sanitation, putting them at risk of early death, disease and entrenched poverty.

Children playing in flooded rice fields, Preaek Chrey commune, Cambodia. Ms. Sokha Sinoeun, principal of Preaek Chrey elementary school estimates that on average 5 students miss classes each month due to fever and diarrhoea.

With such a compelling need, Singapore non-government organisation (NGO) Lien AID has launched “Windows of Hope” – a virtual reality (VR) experience and roving exhibition on Asia’s need for clean water. Lien AID is bringing this immersive event right into the offices of companies and organisations in Singapore to give employees a unique chance to journey into Cambodia and Myanmar vicariously, and discover for themselves what life without clean water is like. Through the VR video and physical installations, they will learn about the impact of the region’s water challenges and how Lien AID works with local governments, rural communities and corporate supporters to offer relief and sustainable water access. 

Deeper understanding of water challenges

Mr Koh Lian Hock, CEO of Lien AID said, “The best way for people to understand the devastating impact of widespread water challenges on rural communities is to travel there and see for themselves. However, not everyone is able to do this. But we can bring the experience to him or her through this immersive 360˚ experience. With this exhibition, we hope to bring people closer to our cause, and educate them on the urgent need for clean water in countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, and what they can do to make a difference.” Lien AID is seeking the support of corporates to adopt its water cause as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts, so there can be greater and more sustainable water access in rural communities across Asia.

Through the “Windows of Hope” VR exhibition, Lien AID hopes to raise $300,000 to help ten Myanmar villages improve their water supply and gain access to proper sanitation in schools and health centres.

A woman climbs down a rudimentary river quay made of bamboo, Kakayo village, Myanmar. Two hours away from the nearest town, Kakayo village has few amenities and villagers have to travel to the neighbouring village for health services.

Since November this year, the Windows of Hope VR exhibition has travelled to the offices of Credit Suisse and Allen & Gledhill, as well as to Expedia. In 2018, Lien AID will be bringing the roving exhibition to more offices, such as design and engineering consultancies AECOM and Arup.

Employees have gained greater awareness

Lien AID is the first water NGO in Singapore to tap on the power of VR and 360˚ video to bring urban executives and professionals closer to the heart of the water issue. Initial responses to the exhibition have been positive. Close to 50 Credit Suisse employees took part in Windows of Hope. Ms Laetitia Lienart, Vice President, APAC Corporate Citizenship, Credit Suisse said, “At Credit Suisse, employees are encouraged to support local communities by donating their time and skills to initiatives and projects run by partner non-for-profit organisations. We were very pleased to host Lien AID’s exhibition, which gave employees a unique opportunity to learn about water challenges in rural Asia through immersive technology.” She added, “We organise various charity events throughout the year to raise awareness of our staff about key social and environmental issues in Asia. We also provide financial grants to not-for-profit partners which provide underprivileged children and youth with access to quality education.”

Employees from Credit Suisse at the Windows of Hope exhibition.

Over 100 employees from the law firm, Allen & Gledhill, got a virtual taste of Cambodia’s water challenges. Mr Chan Hian Young, Partner at Allen & Gledhill, who helms the Pro Bono Programme at the firm on a full-time basis, says, “Lien AID has used a very interactive medium to engage us with sights and sounds to enhance our experience at the exhibition. This has given us a clearer picture of the situation in the rural villages. We saw that a lot of help is needed for these communities to access clean water and sanitation”. Allen & Gledhill, has been assisting Lien AID in setting up its project office in Myanmar.

An employee at Allen & Gledhill views the 360 video.

Expedia Singapore also played host to the exhibition on 1 December, where employees had a chance to explore the issue.  Mr Jason Chuei, CSR lead at Expedia Asia Pacific said, “Under our global ‘Expedia Cares’ CSR programme, clean water and sanitation is one of our focuses in the region and for Singapore. The challenge for clean water is a key developmental need for many of Asia’s rural poor. It is also an issue close to Singapore. As a global travel and technology company, it is important to cultivate and encourage our employees to support community outreach programmes through volunteering efforts. It is rewarding to see the Expedia Cares programme providing a platform for our employees to achieve that through multiple initiatives that matter to our country and community.”

Cambodian ‘Waterpreneur’ & Lien AID at work

The VR video was shot in Preaek Chrey Village, Kandal Province in Cambodia. The villagers in the often-flooded rural area mostly rely on dirty river water or rainwater for drinking, cooking and washing. It is estimated that prior to Lien AID’s intervention, the villagers spent on average 25 to 40 minutes preparing water (collecting, filtering, boiling, etc.) before drinking it.

A woman scooping water from a rainwater harvesting jar, Cambodia. The earthen jars used to collect rainwater are not cleaned regularly and often contaminated with animal droppings and other pollutants.

The Community Water Enterprise (CWE) set up by Lien AID in Preaek Chrey village covers two of seven villages in Preaek Chrey commune. The main sources of drinking water for villagers prior to the implementation of the CWE programme are river water and rainwater. The other alternative source would be imported bottled water sold by a private company in Vietnam, which costs up to 3,000 Riel/bottle (USD 0.75). The CWE programme, Lien AID’s intervention, has enabled an estimated 3,624 villagers from 929 households and 2 villages to gain better and more affordable access to clean drinking water. Under the CWE programme, a water treatment and bottling plant is built in the commune. ‘Water entrepreneurs’ are selected from the local villages through a rigorous evaluation process. Water management committees comprising selected local government officials are also formed to regulate the provision of water services. Like the entrepreneurs, they are trained to operate and maintain water treatment and bottling plants, as well as taught basic business skills and how to manage water services.

In the decade since its inception, Lien AID has enabled clean water and sanitation access for more than 900,000 rural poor in Asia, across 6 countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China) in more than 2,800 villages, 270 schools and 50 healthcare centres.

Access to clean water has the power to transform lives. For every dollar invested in water, sanitation and hygiene, the World Health Organisation and United Nations Water Agency estimate that more than four times the benefits are delivered through savings in healthcare costs. Convenient water supply and sanitation services are also estimated to provide time-savings of 20 billion working days per year as well as an additional 320 million productive days gained due to improved health.[1]

Host the Windows of Hope exhibition in your office

Companies which would like to offer their employees a unique opportunity to experience immersive 360˚ technology and play a part in bringing clean water to rural communities in Asia can contact ruiyan.yong@lienaid.org for the roving exhibition to visit their offices.

[1] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49377#.Whauz1XXbDd

When Water Becomes Poison

Kouk Thlork Commune, Takeo Province

Kim was one of the friendliest villagers we encountered. When he heard where we were from, he waved us over to share the space on his wooden platform bed.

Kim is a rice farmer. His father and his grandfather were farmers, as were the generations above them.

Unwilling to let his children be bound by the fate of a rice farmer, Kim worked hard all year planting and harvesting rice. He saved his income to send his children to school. Decades of working barefoot in the rice fields have left his feet gnarly and calloused.

Kim’s hard work paid off. His rice farms grew and he hired men to help him during rice harvest season.

The men he hired worked long and hard hours under the scorching sun. They did not carry water with them as it would hinder their work. When they got thirsty, they scooped water from the river with their hands to drink.

One day, one man started having uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting. With no hospital in the vicinity, Kim placed the sick man on his rickety wooden boat, and rowed across the border to Vietnam, where he sent him to the nearest hospital.

“I was worried that he was going to die. What was I going to say to his parents?” – Kim

The doctor told them that the vomiting and diarrhea was caused by drinking contaminated water. The man recovered but he could not work for the next four days. Kim and his wife took care of him, cooked for him, and paid his hospital bills.

A boy swims in the heavily polluted river.

“This water is poison! You cannot even bathe in it.” He said as he gestured to the Mekong River.

The river is heavily polluted because farmers use so much pesticide, he told us. At low tide, the exposed riverbed is littered with garbage.

With no clean water source, Kim resorted to buying water from Vietnam, which cost $0.63USD for a 20-litre bottle.

When Community Water Enterprise was set up, he was overjoyed. The bottled water from CWE costs just $0.25USD, less than half the price of the imported bottled water.

Bottles of treated drinking water at the CWE treatment plant in Toul Putrea village.

Life improved after he gained access to affordable clean water. He used the money he saved for his children’s education. He could even afford to buy more cows.

Kim tells me proudly, “I have four cows now. And I have more rice.”

Kim’s wife now lives with one of their children in Phnom Penh. Kim lives and works alone on his farm, sending most of his income to his children whom are still in school.

Kim Ly, with bags of rice inside his home.

“If I could change one thing about the past, I wished that we knew about the water. Our lives would have been better and our children healthier.” – Kim Ly

This project in Kouk Thlork Commune was supported with co-funding from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

Our youngest supporters ever

Last year, 41,251 babies were born to couples in Singapore. Most of these babies will go on to attend nursery and kindergarten; a well-trodden trajectory expected in Singapore. Sure, they drive us crazy sometimes, but we give them our best.

In far-flung rural villages not yet fully on google maps, parents are much the same as parents in Singapore. They give their children the best of what they have, in hopes they grow up strong, happy and healthy. But that may not be enough for of the approximately 290,000 newborns in rural Cambodia. For every 1000 babies born, 29 do not make it over age 5 in Cambodia.* The comparative figure in Singapore is 2.4 in Singapore. Statistically, Cambodian babies are 12 times more vulnerable.

For sure, there are many ingredients needed to bring up strong healthy children, some of them a mystery. But there are a few things that we do know, and one of them, is that children need clean water and safe environments.

Mr Kai Sarim and his family, Beung Khirk village, Prey Veng province.

 

Under the 2015 Sustainable Development Goal framework, one of the standards the global community is aiming for is universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. This means that children will be able to drink clean water at schools at least.

Easy as it is to say water is a basic right, delivering reliable clean water to rural families is a real challenge. Rural communities face a gap in income, access to information and technical expertise, and government support which is stretched thin. At the base of it, they also have their hands tied by the myriad of geographical challenges.

Today, waterborne diseases still contribute to child mortality significantly in rural communities across Asia. It isn’t that we do not have the technical prowess to solve the clean water challenge. However, for the science to come to play, it also takes the human systems and financial support across boundaries to rally support.

Ashaekwin village, Bogale Township, Myanmar. Saw Kyaw (Lien AID Myanmar staff) discusses progress on the village water infrastructure project with community leaders.

This year, Lien AID has been cheered on by the good spirit and efforts of our youngest ever supporters. Meet James, and the Rainbow 3 (Kindergarten 1) kids from St James’ Church Kindergarten’s (SJCK) Gilstead campus.

Left: James Gifford celebrated his 9th birthday, and raised funds to contribute to clean water projects for rural poor communities. Right: Kindergarten 1 children at St James’ Kindergarten learning about Water through their Start Small Dream Big module.

To celebrate his 9th birthday, James and his family sent information about clean water issues to his friends, and asked for his birthday presents to be given in the form of donations to support clean water projects. To the 9 year old, it is horrifying that easy access to clean water and good sanitation is still a luxury to many communities.

Similarly, the 5 year olds at St James’ Church Kindergarten, together with their teacher Eudora, have donated funds they raised from their Start Small Dream Big module to Lien AID. In 6 months, the kindergarteners learnt about water, water treatment, and water conservation, amongst other things.

What do kids say about having no clean water? “Ewwww, I can’t brush my teeth.”

I am not sure how much they will remember of the technicalities, as after all, they are but five (check out their lovely illustrations below). However, I am sure they will remember the value of water and know to cherish this plain and simple luxury we enjoy in Singapore.  Kudos to Teacher Eudora Tan at SJCK!

Copyright @SJCK

Together the all the children raised $1,347 towards the clean water needs of families and children who are being supported by Lien AID’s clean water projects in Cambodia. Thank you for sharing some of what you have to make days better for other children. Happy Children’s Day kids!

Special thanks to James, the Gifford family, St James’ Church Kindergarten, Eudora and all the kids at Rainbow 3. 100% of the funds were channeled to project implementation for the Community Water Enterprise in Cambodia. Please contact ruiyan.yong@lienaid.org if you have any queries.

 

*Source: UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (Sep 2015)

The Village Poet

Bothingone Village, Myanmar

At 69, deputy village chief and Water Management Committee (WMC) chairman U San Yee is remarkably agile and energetic for someone his age. Dressed in a traditional Burmese longyi, he cheerfully led the way from the wooden jetty to the village, unbothered by the blazing sun and blistering heat. Beneath our feet, the soil was parched and cracked, and I could feel the heat radiating through the soles of my sandals.

Like many other villages in the south of the Ayeyarwaddy region, Bothingone village experiences an annual dry season of sparse rainfall that lasts for about 5 months. During this time, the only rudimentary rainwater harvesting pond in the village often dries up, leaving villagers with just a handful of hand-dug tube wells and pumps to obtain clean water for consumption. Sometimes, they have to travel to neighbouring village of Sarchet to collect water with jerry cans. It is common for villagers to ration water use during the dry summer months.

The existing pond in Bothingone village, which is the villagers’ main source of clean water. During the dry summer months, this pond sometimes dries up.

Jerry cans used to collect water

One of U San Yee’s grandchildren playing near the jerry cans.

As the chairman of the Water Management Committee, U San Yee was determined to tackle the water challenges and improve the villagers’ access to clean water. Under his leadership, the village made a unified decision to increase the catchment capacity of the existing pond to help tide them through the dry summer months.

Besides being a village leader and water champion, it turns out that U San Yee is also an aspiring writer and poet. Having experienced and survived the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, he decided to use poetry as a means to educate fellow villagers about the importance of protecting water resources and to encourage them to respect nature. As we sat down inside his home, he took out a notebook, and proudly showed us the poem he had penned.

U San Yee’s poem in Burmese.

This is the English version of the poem*:

Climate changes due to the unbalanced ecosystem,

followed by various natural disasters.

Do not regret only when you suffer such disasters.

Preparation with careful consideration,

will lead to peaceful deliverance of such disasters.

A united effort would breed resilience and sustainability.

Practise continuously,

to create a beautiful environment.

With optimism for the future,

by handing down these good practices to our children.

 

Dear fellow citizens,

be prepared and observant of

climate changes due to the unbalanced ecosystem.

With the effects of severe heat

and drought that resembles

A child without a mother, a fish out of water –

troubled and deprived,

Be prepared and observant.

If only to be awaken by a deep regret,

as helplessness leads to further errors and degradation

with lives at stake.

*This is an unofficial translation and provided for reference only.

U San Yee’s support and influence proved to be paramount to the successful implementation of the clean water project in Bothingone village. Earlier this year, rehabilitation works to expand the capacity of the existing village pond began. When completed, this project is expected to enable over 1,000 villagers from 220 households to gain better access to clean water.

Construction to expand the capacity of the existing water catchment pond began earlier this year.

Close to the end of our visit, I asked U San Yee about his hopes and dreams for his grandchildren, as well as his advice for the younger generation. He left us with the following words of wisdom:

“My wishes are very simple. I hope for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be healthy and educated. I hope they travel out of the village to explore the world outside. For the younger generation, my advice would be to stay healthy, build family unity and practise lifelong learning.”

U San Yee with a few of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Some of U San Yee’s grandchildren and great grandchildren.

This project in Bothingone village, Labutta township, Myanmar is implemented as one of Lien AID’s pilot clean water projects in the Ayeyarwaddy region.

Lien AID partners with UNICEF Cambodia to bring affordable clean water to more than 27,000 villagers in Kratie and Kandal Provinces

Lien AID is a Singapore-based international non-profit that is committed to enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for Asia’s rural poor.

Lien AID brings clean water access to more than 27,000 villagers in the provinces of Kandal and Kratie in Cambodia. Rural communities in these provinces face clean water challenges such as the arsenic contamination of groundwater, seasonal flooding and the lack of available clean drinking water sources.

Bottles of treated CWE water at the handover event.

On 24 August 2017, 10 completed Community Water Enterprises (CWEs) were handed over to the respective communes. The 10 clean water projects, co-funded by UNICEF Cambodia, are expected to benefit more than 27,000 people from over 5000 households. With the launch of these 10 CWEs, Lien AID would have implemented 75 CWEs in 12 provinces in Cambodia since 2011, enabling more than 397,000 villagers to gain affordable access to clean drinking water.

Villagers travelling home with their bottles of clean water.

These enterprises utilise a market based approach to provide affordable treated drinking water on a sustainable basis. The communes will own, operate and manage the water treatment and bottling plant through a water entrepreneur and a Water Management Committee (WMC) selected from the local communities. Lien AID will continue to monitor and review the performances of the CWEs for two years after the launch.

Government officials and Lien AID CEO having a taste of the treated drinking water inside the CWE water treatment plant

In a speech, the CEO of Lien AID, Mr. Koh Lian Hock said, “The challenge of sustainable clean water access cannot be solved by a single organisation. With the continuous support of the local government and our partners, we hope to share our knowledge and expertise so that the CWE programme can be replicated and extended to other locations, enabling more rural communities in Cambodia to enjoy sustainable access to clean drinking water.”

Many of the local villagers and water entrepreneurs expressed joy at having access to clean drinking water right in their communes. Water entrepreneur Ms. Eart Sysela Vorn sees the Community Water Enterprise as a new opportunity for her and her family. While a little nervous about picking up new technical knowledge at the age of 60, she is keen to embark on a new journey and explore an alternative source of income to farming.

“There are a lot of families that drink untreated water in my commune. With CWE, I can earn more income for myself and help families that lack access to clean water.” – Ms. Eart Sysela Vorn.

Ms. Loeung Kimlen, a farmer from Svay Chek Village, Kaoh Khnhaer Commune, said that it would be her first time drinking treated clean water. “I usually drink water from the rice farm, lake or the river. If I have the free time, I will boil the water before drinking. When I’m busy, I drink raw water. I am happy to see this Community Water Enterprise in my commune!” – Ms. Loeung Kimlen.

Ms. Loeung Kimlen traveling home with a bottle of clean drinking water

About Lien AID:

Lien AID is an international non-profit organisation committed to enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for Asia’s rural poor. Founded in 2006, Lien AID focuses on community-based approaches in the delivery of multi-year scalable and sustainable WASH programmes. Through partnerships with local governments, civil society organisations and private businesses, Lien AID hopes to provide the impetus for better water governance and a future where clean water access is available to everyone.

About Community Water Enterprise (CWE):

The Community Water Enterprise (CWE) programme applies the principles of a social enterprise model delivered by training selected water entrepreneurs and local governments. The CWE programme is delivered in locations where piped water systems are not feasible and where readily available surface waters are biologically contaminated. Since 2011, Lien AID has implemented 75 CWEs in 12 provinces in Cambodia, enabling more than 397,000 rural villagers in Cambodia with sustainable access to clean drinking water.

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