Empowering rural poor communities in Cambodia, one at a time

The Water Crisis in Cambodia

Cambodia has one of the fastest growing GDPs in Asia, but more than 11.8 million of the population still lack access to a safely managed drinking water source[1], of which 10.4 million live in rural areas. The lack of access to safe water and sanitation services leaves children especially vulnerable to water borne diseases. In Cambodia, diarrhea is second leading cause of death for children under the age of five[2].

The Lien AID Approach – Empowering Local Communities Through a Social Enterprise Model

Since 2011, Singapore NGO Lien AID has been enabling rural poor communities in Cambodia to gain sustainable access to clean drinking water. As of end 2016, Lien AID has enabled more than 350,000 rural poor in Cambodia to gain access to clean drinking water through 64 Community Water Enterprises (CWE) across 11 provinces.

Going beyond the traditional approach of providing funding and infrastructure, the CWE programme developed by Lien AID utilises a social enterprise model that trains and empowers local communities to deliver sustainable clean water services to rural households. Under this programme, Water Entrepreneurs and Water Management Committees are selected from the local villages via a rigorous evaluation process. They are subsequently trained in the operation and maintenance of water treatment and bottling plants, as well as in basic business skills and the management of water services.

Bottles of clean, treated drinking water inside a CWE water treatment plant. 

Partnership with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore

Last year, two CWEs that were established with the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Singapore were handed over to the communities of Ta An and Msar Krang communes. Through these projects, 2,023 households and 10 schools gained sustainable access to clean drinking water.

In late 2016, Singapore volunteers from Nanyang Technological University and Conjunct Consulting conducted a further evaluation study in the two communes to better understand villagers’ perspectives of the CWE initiative.

Stories of Real People Empowered Through Lien AID’s CWE Programme

The CWE programme has not only empowered water entrepreneurs, but it has also changed the lives of many other villagers. Here are some stories of real people whose lives have improved since gaining better and more affordable access to clean water.

Se Hin, a provision shop owner in Anglong Tean village, Takeo province, was able to earn more income after she gained better access to affordable clean water under the CWE programme. “People used to spend twice as much on imported water from Vietnam. Now they have more money to buy snacks and drinks. I have more income to send my children to school.” – Se Hin

Cham Nan, a water entrepreneur from Toul Putrea village, Takeo province was able to leave his job in a food factory and now runs the CWE plant in Toul Putrea village with his wife. For him, clean water means hope for a better future for his growing family.  “Not only am I able to provide for my family, I also learned to run my own business. I think I am more responsible and confident now.” – Cham Nan

Kim Ly, rice farmer, Toul Putrea village, Takeo province. Kim’s life improved after he gained access to affordable clean water. The bottled water from CWE costs less than half the price of the imported bottled water that he used to buy. Kim was able to save more money for his children’s education, and could even afford to buy more cows.  “I have four cows now. And I have more rice.”  – Kim Ly.

For more information on Lien AID’s initiatives and how you can partner with us, please visit

A version of this article also appeared in the Khmer Times Singapore National Day Supplement

Lien AID launches #waterisluxury campaign

Singapore is a city of luxury that plays host to lavish social life and many designer brands. But there’s one home-grown luxury that few talk about: access to clean water.

Last month, Lien AID launched a pop-up luxury water bar in the city and invited hundreds of guests inside for an exclusive taste of Ô – the most expensive water in Asia priced at SGD $1,260 a bottle.

People flocked in for a free taste of Asia’s most expensive water – which is pH balanced, rejuvenating, hydrating and most of all, very refreshing.

Then, they realised that the luxury water was not quite what it seemed.

Eau does not actually exist.

Inside each bottle is 100% clean water, which is readily available to us here. But in our neighbouring countries, clean water can be up to 1,260 times less affordable than in Singapore.

For millions of Asia’s rural poor, water is luxury.

But it shouldn’t be.

More than 200 million rural poor in Asia still lack access to clean water. Lien AID is an international non-profit committed to enabling sustainable clean water access for Asia’s rural poor. Watch the full video below and learn more about how you can help at

For the latest updates on Lien AID, connect with us on our Facebook page.

Field Notes for April and May, 2015.


In April, as part of the final stage of the pre-project development process, Lien AID held a series of meetings with the respective local commune councils and village leaders from each of the identified communes. These communes were selected from our previous needs assessment and situational analysis process and we wanted their reaffirmation of commitment to the projects. We took the opportunity to explain in further detail the ownership and management approach of our Community Water Enterprise programme in Cambodia and respond to their questions and concerns.

Subsequently, the agreements for 11 new projects that will be delivered under our Community Water Enterprise programme in Cambodia (2015), was officially signed in May. Among these, 2 each are in the Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, with the remaining 5 communes (projects) in Takeo province.

CWE project kick off in Takeo province2

CWE project kick off in Takeo province, Cambodia.


Among the 35 water project proposals received for the 7th intake of our Student Village Officer training workshop conducted in March, we went on to assess on-site situations for 12 of those in April, with another 17 completed in May. Together with the Student Village Officers and village officials for each of the respective projects, we assessed village conditions and water situations through observations and interviews with the villagers.

Over a span of 10 days in April, we covered 7 villages in the counties of Malipo, Shidian and Lianghe in Yunnan Province as well as 5 villages in Chishui county, Guizhou. Our local partners and stakeholders – Guizhou-Chishui Council for the Promotion of Construction in the Old Revolutionary Areas; Yunnan-Malipo Foreign Aid Office; Yunnan-Shidian Poverty Relief Office; Yunnan-Lianghe County Government were also involved, facilitating meetings and discussions.

In May, we had a much tougher schedule, travelling to the counties of Wushan and Wuxi of Chongqing Municipality, the counties of Meitan and Luoyang in Guizhou, Sangzhi county of Hunan, and surveying 17 villages in 22 days. Our local partners involved in these projects are the Chongqing Poverty Relief Office; Guizhou-Zunyi Council for the Promotion of Construction in the Old Revolutionary Areas; Hunan-Sangzhi Poverty Relief Office.

Such on-site assessments are critical to our programmes as they enable us to better evaluate the suitability of the proposals through a first-hand understanding of the situation and sentiments on ground, while acting as a data validation exercise as well.

Project inpection in Jiexi village, China.

Project inpection in Jiexi village, China.

Needs assessment in Tieguang Village, China.

Needs assessment in Tieguang Village, China.


Our Digital Strategist Jeremiah Rogers gave a lunchtime presentation about marketing for A River’s Tail at the United Nations in Bangkok. You can read his writeup here and also find a link to the full presentation.


“Water You Waiting For?” A Collaboration With Students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic

This is a contributed post by students year two students in the Advertising & Public Relations diploma programme at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film & Media Studies. The authors are students Deborah Ooi, Zachary Sng, Ester Porter, Jerome Lum and Ridha Fakhira.

“Water You Waiting For?” — that was the question our team of five wanted to pose to the youth of Singapore. With Lien AID as our project client, we were tasked to come up with a public relations campaign proposal to raise awareness of the devastating effects of water pollution regionally and globally in connection with Singapore World Water Day. Our job was to generate ideas to influence change in social attitudes and behaviours towards water pollution. At the start, we had a few uncertainties. How were we going to convince our youth that our actions on this tiny island called Singapore have a huge impact on the lives of others around the world? How were we going to encourage them to take steps to alleviate the problem? This was a tall order indeed; but after working on several PR school projects over the past year-and-a-half, a community service campaign was indeed a refreshing change and we were pumped and ready for the challenge.

Through our research, we discovered that our primary target public – Singapore tertiary students – were well aware and concerned about water pollution and its revolving issues. However, the pressing problem was that they were not taking action in combatting it. With this insight, we proceeded to develop an integrated PR campaign with the aim of reaching out to youth to join the battle against water pollution.

We wanted to ignite a change amongst youth. In order to achieve that, we decided to focus on the use of social media and experience-based direct engagement. Our earlier research findings helped to identify specific, impactful issues to highlight in our messaging strategy. For example, we learnt that water pollution is a serious, international problem with the major contributor being the incorrect disposal of substances. We also discovered that there are several, large oceanic garbage patches spread across the five main oceans. Those were the issues that we wanted to highlight in our communication materials, alongside the accessible steps that the public could take to alleviate the water pollution issue.

Deborah, our team’s ‘Account Director’, ensured the cohesiveness and efficacy of all components of the campaign in order to achieve what we set out to do, which was to communicate the message “Don’t wait, act now” – highlighting salient issues in a manner that was engaging and easy to understand.

Jerome, our ‘Media Relations Specialist’, came up with our campaign’s quirky tagline, “Water You Waiting For?”, which encapsulated the key messages of our campaign. The objective was to prompt the youth of Singapore to take immediate action to combat water pollution. We wanted to emphasise that every single minute counts. The longer one waits, the more lives are at stake due to exposure with or contact with contaminated water bodies and sources.

Zachary and Esther, our ‘Research Director’ and ‘Creative Director’ respectively, came up with the design concept. With the use of cartoons and vibrant colours, we managed to present our campaign in a light-hearted manner that would appeal to the millennial generation.

IG1 Combat IG2



Ridha, our ‘Social Media Specialist’, devised a full social media response protocol to address the risks and opportunities that social media can bring as we drive our focus to engaging the youth through platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

In spite of our specific roles, we worked as one team to develop ideas and contribute to every aspect of our campaign. We were also blessed with the mentorship of Mr. Idran Junadi and Ms. Adele Soh from The Hoffman Agency, from whom we gained powerful, eye-opening insights that gave us the extra “oomph” we needed in our campaign. It was truly an incredible experience to learn from industry professionals and hone our skills as future PR practitioners.

With this project, we are thankful to Lien AID, The Hoffman Agency, and Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film & Media Studies for giving us this unique opportunity. The learning for us went beyond strategic PR planning to a deeper appreciation and understanding of the issue at hand. This project truly opened our eyes to the reality and prevalence of water pollution. Although we may not feel the direct impact of water pollution here in Singapore, we have come to understand the consequences of our actions, which can affect millions of people in other countries. Indeed, every little restorative action can help to alleviate the issue. So, ‘water’ you waiting for?

Save The Wave: Students Design a Game to Raise Water Awareness

This contributed blog post is the result of a partnership between Lien AID and Year Two Advertising & Public Relations students from the School of Film & Media Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Students Geena Hui, Nurul Natasha, Benjamin Sim, Lisa Leong, and Shee Wen Shin contributed to create this. Lien AID thanks these students for their wonderful work.

Save the Wave!

The client: Lien AID.

The PR goal: To raise awareness as well as encourage action among Singapore youth to alleviate the problem of water pollution, in conjunction with Singapore World Water Day.

Being part of the younger generation ourselves, we understand the communication culture of our age group in order to be able to effectively connect and engage with our peers regarding this serious global issue – and especially from a youth-centric perspective.

We decided that the theme of our campaign would be “THE WAVE OF CHANGE”.

Why “the wave of change”?

One of the key messages of the campaign was that water pollution defies political and geographical borders, therefore water pollution of Singapore waters would indefinitely create a ripple effect and affect neighbouring countries. Through our campaign, we want to encourage youth to be the next wave (generation) to reduce water pollution globally.

Well, how did we arrive at our big idea?

Through intensive research, we found that students in Singapore are generally aware of water pollution as a global issue and agree that it should be addressed. However, most of them were not actively engaged to play their part to reduce water pollution. The general belief was that they have not contributed to water pollution, which was far from the truth and a misconception that we wanted to correct.

Therefore, in addition to emphasising the fact that water pollution is borderless, we wanted to encourage students who so strongly believe in preventing water pollution worldwide to act upon their belief by being advocates for this cause in their community.

How did we propose to tackle the problem?

One of the tactical ideas we came up with was an online game called “Save the Wave”.

This is how the game goes: The player will be tasked to protect the water body by preventing trash such as styrofoam boxes and plastic bottles to reach the surface of the water. Each object that falls into the water will darken the water, showing the decrease in water quality. A pop-up box would then appear, educating players about how the presence of the object can affect both human and marine life. We think this game would really engage our target publics as it is simple and fun, and similar games like Flappy Bird and Angry Birds are huge hits among youth.

Game start Game pop-up Game play


At the end of the game, an encouraging and empowering message will be screened to remind players about the impact of water pollution in different countries and to encourage them to share the news with their Facebook friends.


Game end screen   Game leaderboard



As our main call-to-action is to get students to pledge to be “the wave of change”, we suggested holding mini-events in schools to spread the word and get students to pledge to be “the wave of change”. Our toolkit would consist of PDF posters, banners, pledge cards and T-shirts for students to download from our campaign website. Apart from targeting individuals, we also proposed to reach out to environment interest groups across these institutions to amplify our key messages and gather pledges to be “the wave of change”.

These are some of the PDF posters designed by our Creative Director Lisa Leong:


Poster 2 Poster 1

Pledge card


Overall, working on the Lien AID project was a great experience. After handling so many consumer-oriented campaigns in both advertising and PR, it was exciting to work on a project for a non-profit organisation, especially given that it would be for the greater good. The project gave us a well-rounded experience in planning a PR campaign, from extensive research on the issue of water pollution across the globe, to budgeting and even logistics.

Besides learning and planning for PR campaigns, this project also provided us the opportunity to learn more about water pollution in-depth and how it impacts the world. Water pollution is still greatly overlooked in Singapore, especially to youth. We are now certainly better equipped to educate the people around us about water pollution and help spread the word to alleviate water pollution in different ways together.

We are very grateful for the guidance from our lecturer and The Hoffman Agency mentors for giving us valuable feedback throughout the campaign planning process and helping us to determine whether our ideas were feasible. Last but not least, thank you Lien AID for this wonderful and enriching opportunity!

Field Notes for March, 2015

Singapore: Celebrating World Water Day 2015 with #The Water Machine



Using #The Water Machine at Singapore World Water Day.


Singapore World Water Day drew a crowd of more than 6,000 participants.









Every year, the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB) celebrates Singapore World Water Day with community partners throughout the month of March. This year, the main event on 21 March was staged together with partners from both the private and non-profit sectors at the new Singapore Sports Hub. Lien AID was one of the 27 official partners of PUB for the event, which drew a crowd of more than 6,000 participants.

Unlike residents in Singapore who enjoy clean water at the turn of the tap, right from the comfort of their homes, obtaining clean water for most of Asia’s rural poor is a difficult task requiring an arduous walk, spending time in queues or having to make do with polluted water.

For this year’s Singapore World Water Day, we created #The Water Machine to shine the spotlight on water challenges faced by Asia’s rural poor and let people in Singapore experience a small taste of how much effort it takes for them to obtain clean water. During the 3 hour event at the Singapore Sports Hub, a total of 156 people took up our challenge at Lien AID’s #The Water Machine.

Singapore: A Partnership with the School of the Arts

2015-03-21 08.34.51

An outdoor sculpture made of over 2,000 discarded water bottles by students from the School of the Arts.



As part of our efforts to engage youths in Singapore, we also partnered with the School of the Arts to create a large outdoor sculpture for the event at the Singapore Sports Hub. Made up of more than 2,000 discarded mineral water bottles, the sculpture is a symbol of the collective will that Singapore has shown in the conservation and protection of its water sources and which is still needed to ensure residents can continue to enjoy affordable clean drinking water in the long run.

China: Training Workshop for 26 Student Village Officers

From 23rd March to 26th March, Lien AID China held a training workshop for 46 Student Village Officers and grassroots leaders in Chishui city, Guizhou Province. The workshop participants represent 35 poverty stricken villages in Yunnan, Chongqing, Hunnan and Guizhou facing clean water access challenges.

Lien AID's China team hosted workshops for 46 Student Village Officers in Chishui city, Guizhou Province, China.

Lien AID’s China team hosted workshops for 46 Student Village Officers in Chishui city, Guizhou Province, China.

The opening ceremony of the workshop was graced by leaders from the China Association for Poverty Alleviation and Development, the Guizhou Council for the Promotion of Construction in the Old Revolutionary Areas, the Zunyi Council for the Promotion of Construction in the Old Revolutionary Areas and the Guizhou-Chishui Council for the Promotion of Construction in the Old Revolutionary Areas. A simple commendation ceremony was also conducted for 9 of the Student Village Officers (representing the best 9 delivered projects) who were part of Batch 3 and Batch 4 of the Village Water Management programme in China.

The 5-day workshop delved into topics related to small – scale water project management, with a particular focus on teaching participants how to conduct needs assessment and draft water project proposals. Upon completion of the workshop, participants have an opportunity to submit water project proposals to Lien AID China. Through a rigorous evaluation and selection process that looks at urgency and severity of water need; commitment from villagers, local governments and Student Village Officers, suitable projects will then be selected for implementation as part of the 7th batch of projects delivered under the Village Water Management programme in China.

Cambodia: Soft Launching 15 sites and selecting 12 new sites for 2015

In Cambodia we soft launched and handed over 15 water treatment plants of CWE program to local communities on March 26th in Kampong Cham. You can read our full writeup on the handover here.

After handing over the 15 CWE sites this year, Lien AID has selected another twelve communes in Takeo province, Kampong Chhnang province, Pursat province and Banteay Meanchey Province for implementation of water treatment plants next year.

Local children playing in a school next to the water treatment plant.

Local children playing in a school next to the water treatment plant.

Villagers carrying recently purchased water bottles away from the treatment plant.

Villagers carrying recently purchased water bottles away from the treatment plant.

The project site's initial supply of 20 litre water bottles quickly sold out.

The project site’s initial supply of 20 litre water bottles quickly sold out.

Field Notes for January and February, 2015

Every month we share updates on recent work from our offices around Asia. This month’s Field Notes has updates from the three countries we work in: China, Cambodia, and Singapore.

China: On January 30th in Guizhou Province Lien AID, held project management training for six Student Village Officers whose projects have been selected for implementation in China. The goal of the training was to provide additional coaching to the Student Village Officers on how to effectively document and report on water projects in the villages of Lianghekou, Tiantaishan and Baoyuan. These projects will launch in the first quarter of 2015 as part of the sixth batch of projects under our Village Water Management programme. More than 3,000 villagers will benefit from piped water connections in their households when the projects are completed by the end of 2015.

Cambodia: In February in Prey Veng province we trained eight Community Water Entrepreneurs along with water management committees and local officials. These water entrepreneurs and water management committees will support 8 new sites: two in in Kampong Cham and six in Prey Veng province. Next month we will hand over several sites to UNICEF and share pictures and stories of results from those sites.

Singapore: We completed a 4-month collaboration with students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Advertising and Public Relations Diploma Course. Taking on Lien AID as a client, the students were tasked to create an outreach campaign for Singapore World Water Day, encouraging youths in Singapore to take action against water pollution. Under the mentorship of The Hoffman Agency, the students developed detailed campaign strategies and plans, and in the process gained a deeper understanding of water issues both in Singapore and the region. We’ll be sharing some of their work in upcoming blog posts as well as the students’ take on this experience.

This month we will be celebrating World Water Day with #TheWaterMachine and an outdoor sculpture with the School of the Arts. More of our exciting activities in our next field note. See you next month!

Lien AID celebrates World Water Day 2014


This month, Lien AID celebrated World Water Day on a few occasions in Singapore and Cambodia.

Ahead of its official international date of March 22, we participated in a Singapore-wide World Water Day celebration organized by PUB on March 15, marking our second year of involvement.

Through the use of an interactive touchscreen display at our booth at the Marina Barrage, we were able to raise awareness of water issues faced by rural communities, and advocate the need to address their lack of access to clean drinking water.


On March 21, Lien AID representatives presented a ‘Lunch and Learn’ talk to HEINEKEN Asia Pacific employees in Singapore, highlighting water issues, our sustainable water projects in the region. Lien AID also co-facilitated an interesting hands-on activity. HEINEKEN Asia Pacific employees each got the chance to build a simple water purification device that demonstrated how dirty water is filtered through various stages (sand, gravel, active carbon etc) to obtain clean water.

Protecting water resources is one of the four focus areas of HEINEKEN Asia Pacific’s sustainability strategy, ‘Brewing a Better Future’. Their water efforts include reducing water consumption in their breweries, balancing water demand, and waste water management.


That same day, we also participated in World Water Day celebrations in the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia. As part of the festivities, government officials, commune councils, schools, NGOs and the community were present to partake in various activities.

These include speeches by government officials and commune councils on water management and the importance of drinking clean water, an entertaining comedy show by Charb Chein team and students on health and its relationship with safe drinking water, a gift presentation to students for a community water painting initiative, and exhibition booths managed by NGOs and the Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD).

Every drop counts: Singapore World Water Day 2013

Water is precious; every drop counts.

Lien AID marked Singapore World Water Day 2013 together with an estimated 25, 000 people across 15 locations island-wide in an event organised by the Public Utilities Board Singapore. At the anchor location Marina Barrage, Lien AID raised awareness about the poor access to clean water that still faces disadvantaged communities in Asia. Photo stories illustrating the real experiences of families and individuals across these communities were displayed at the event. These stories were put together last year as part of the Pour A Glass of Hope Campaign; an advocacy initiative carried out in partnership with a class of students and their professors from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University. The class had travelled to Cambodia in Feb 2012 as part of their curriculum and were given the opportunity to interact with beneficiaries and government officials at selected project sites. Two student volunteers, Cynthia and Athena were also on hand at the event to share their experiences in Cambodia.

The public was also urged to show their support for the 31st article in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the right to clean water. Coined the Blue Right by Lien AID, people were encouraged to document their support through photo declarations at the event. School children, families, friends and government officials were photographed showing that they believe in the Blue Right as shown in the photo gallery.