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Smiles and School Days: “Miracle Water” Makes a Difference for Families in Cambodia

July 31, 2014

For nearly 10 years, we have been sharing the stories of children, families, and partners who are impacted by the global clean drinking water crisis.  We know that clean drinking water is a daily struggle for almost 1 billion, but we’ve learned there are many solutions - including our P&G Purifier of Water packets - that are making a big difference for families around the world.  Often we’re asked what happens to the people who have been touched by our Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, and so we wanted to share a personal blog from one of our own employees – Victoria Great – who traveled back to Cambodia to meet families who have been using our P&G packets for the last three years…    

"Back in May 2011, I visited one of P&G’s CSDW community programs for the first time in Cambodia. The local program is in partnership with World Vision Cambodia and was established in 2009. Through CSDW, P&G has now supported more than 100 million liters of clean drinking water in Cambodia through provision of the P&G Purifier of Water packets with World Vision and other NGO partners (see video).  During that first trip 3 years ago, I traveled with Dr Greg Allgood, the founder of the CDSW Program on a 4 hour drive through the rural countryside north of Phnom Penh to a small village where I met two young Cambodian children at their school in the province of Kampong Thom; Sok Chea, a pretty 13 year old with brown eyes and a cute school girl fringe: and Kosol, a young 11 year old boy, with a handsome face and shy smile. These were the children who were selected to represent the fortunate beneficiaries of the clean water program in Cambodia.

              Three years later in May 2014, almost to the very same day, I had the privilege to return to the village in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. We were hoping to meet up with the 2 young children to see how their lives had progressed as they continued to benefit from CSDW and the clean water, sanitation and hygiene education the program provided by World Vision.. I was intrigued to hear the children’s story and understand what kind of difference the P&G packets had made to their lives. Sok Chea is now a teenager – 16 years old, and attends a secondary school in the village, but to me she still looked like a sweet innocent young girl. Kosol had also grown up, now 15 years old, but stood just shoulder height to me with his diminutive stature. Despite their small build, it was easy to recognize them and they both gave me charmingly shy smiles when they saw me again.

      

The main source of water for the whole village is a river. Its picturesque location is somewhat misleading and masks the brutal reality that the water is filthy dirty and contaminated. But it is the only water source for the villagers, and drinking the dirty water often results in the children and their families suffering from diarrhea, which in turn means that they miss days of school and interrupt their studies. On World Water Day this year, UNICEFreported  that there are 6.3 million Cambodians who do not have access to clean drinking water, making children (41% of the population) vulnerable to water borne diseases. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Cambodia, while vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to diarrhea results in an annual loss of US$146Million to Cambodia’s GDP.

    These heavy facts weighed on my mind as I watched Sok Chea carry 2 heavy buckets of water from the river to her house up a treacherously steep slope and along a soggy muddy path. She walked with incredible nimbleness and confidence given how heavy the buckets were. Even my hard core bootcamp training back in Singapore had not prepared me for this task, and I was a little embarrassed to admit that I was barely able to navigate the same steep slope.

    Kosol proved to be a happy and easy going companion to me, as we spent the afternoon taking photos and videos together, speaking a few timid words in broken English and smiling at my basic attempts to pronounce the Khmer language. Both the children and their families continue to use the P&G Purifier of Water packets.  Sok Chea and Kosol are both now experts at showing the primary school children how to mix and stir the "miracle water”; and they looked healthy and happy, despite their humble surroundings.

                These kinds of experiences are so refreshing and rewarding to me. I feel really proud of the work of the work that the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program is doing with our partners around the world, and privileged to be able to meet the beneficiary families and witness firsthand the program’s impact. It’s a humbling reminder to me that we should never take for granted the most basic life necessity – a simple glass of clean drinking water.”

  Victoria Great

  CSR Communications Leader -P&G Asia

 

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