A Learning Journey

13 Jan 2014

An amazing learning journey for this SIV, Moses Tan who recently volunteered for the Water for Life project in Kampong Speu, Cambodia.

It is almost clichéd to declare that this Overseas Community Involvement Programme (OCIP) was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives thus far, but it truly was. All of us grew from this trip, and found it extremely meaningful and enriching. We were inspired by everyone’s graciousness and generosity, which were displayed most prominently by the residents of Kampong Speu themselves. Hopefully our efforts made at least a small difference to their lives. The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and the Sao Sary Foundation (SSF) deserve our greatest thanks, for without them this entire experience would have been impossible.

The SIVs from National University of Singapore

This OCIP was literally more backbreaking as compared to other OCIPs that some of us have participated in. Mixing cement and installing bio-sand water filters were not tasks we undertook readily in Singapore and we discovered aching muscles in hitherto-unknown areas of our bodies! But despite our exhaustion, we were encouraged by the knowledge that each bio-sand water filter could last a family for at least 10 years, and that the provision of clean drinking water is a tangible improvement to each person’s life. This is what positively distinguishes SIF’s Water for Life project from most other OCIPs. The Water for Life project promises sustainability and continuity, and the bio-sand water filters that we leave behind endure for a much longer period even after we leave.

Other than building and installing bio-sand water filters, we also had the opportunity to pack and distribute hygiene packs to students and residents. Despite the language barrier, we tried our best to teach the proper techniques of hand-washing and teeth-brushing with the help of interpreters. This allowed us to interact with some children of Kampong Speu and we were touched by their friendliness, positivity and enthusiasm. The hygiene pack is helpful because it provides something tangible, but its effectiveness will be enhanced if the students and residents remember and use the proper techniques. We were thus glad that there were other avenues for positive reinforcement, for example through the posters that were distributed in conjunction with the hygiene pack, and through the teachers at the school.

After a day of hard work, the bio-sand water filters are completed!

SIVs shared the hygiene education programme with the locals within the Kampong Speu community

The Cambodians that work with the SSF made the greatest impact on us during this trip. Their can-do spirit and selfless passion to help those around them are awe-inspiring. This shows civic society at its best, working from the bottom-up rather than expecting top-down hand-outs. We were amazed at their continued zeal to help their fellow citizens, and immensely grateful for their patience with us during our initial attempts. Given the learning curve, we wish that we could have stayed for a few more days as we would likely be proportionately more efficient in building and installing the bio-sand water filters, and can thus help more families.

This was as much a learning journey for us as it was community service. We often take basic necessities like clean drinking water for granted in Singapore. This OCIP has reminded all of us how fortunate we are to have access to this resource, and how important clean drinking water is to good health. This trip has taught us that we can make a small but significant improvement in the lives of others. We hope that the sharing of our experience in Kampong Speu with those around us likewise encourages and inspires others to take part in such projects and do good for the wider community.

This account is contributed by SIV, Moses Tan from National University of Singapore, who went for the Water for Life project in Kampong Speu on 9-13 December 2013. Click here to view more photos of the trip!

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