Singapore International Volunteer (SIV) Azlina Ahmad (in orange) showing Cambodian students how to brush properly to care for the teeth and gums, as part of basic hygiene training for schoolchildren. Hygiene education is one of the two parts of the WFL programme, with the other part being the installation of bio-sand water filters.
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) has launched the third phase of its signature Water for Life (WFL) project in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The project started on 5 October 2022, and is the fourth instalment in Cambodia and sixth in Asia.
The two-year effort aims to provide 5,700 Cambodian villagers in the districts of Chi Kraeng and Svay Leu in Siem Reap with access to clean water. It will also equip them with basic hygiene knowledge to reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases.
SIVs (in orange) pose for a commemorative shot at the launch of the third phase of the WFL project in Siem Reap. The launch was attended by the Singapore’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Ms Teo Lay Cheng (centre, in patterned dress), members of the municipal authorities, commune and district representatives as well as the villagers.
The launch also marks the first time that the SIF is sending Singapore volunteers abroad since the global COVID-19 pandemic restricted international travel in early 2020. In the next two years, 160 of them will go to Cambodia to work on this project. These volunteers would join the ranks of more than 1000 volunteers who have already volunteered for WFL over the years.
The collaboration with Water for Cambodia – the Cambodia-based partner for WFL – continued throughout the pandemic; but the programme has seen renewed vigour, with boots on the ground. Personal presence has also boosted the potential to make new friendships and renew old ones.
Ms Azlina Ahmad is a Singapore International Volunteer (SIV) and leader who has gone on more than a dozen trips with the SIF to date. She said: “Being back on the ground is wonderful. I started volunteering abroad as I wanted to do more than just travel but also to give back to the community I was visiting.
“With SIF’s WFL programme, I have been able to do that and more. I have formed strong friendships over the years with both my fellow volunteers and the communities with which we work.
“I am also grateful for the pause this trip has offered me in terms of being able to reflect and recalibrate, away from home. I will return home recharged.”
The first phase of the Siem Reap WFL project was launched in 2010 and the second phase, in 2017. There was also a project in Kampung Speu in 2012 and, so far, more than 74,000 Cambodians have benefited from the programme.
Nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s 15.6 million people do not have access to clean water. The country also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Asia, and most of these premature deaths can be attributed to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, hepatitis A and typhoid.
Studies have shown that bio-sand water filters – the water cleansing system employed for WFL – effectively removes all parasites and more than 90 per cent of harmful bacteria.
Hence the programme involves the installation of the water filters in the houses in the community. In the Siem Reap project, 600 filters – sponsored by Ngee Ann Development Pte Ltd – will be installed.
The production of filtered clean water is just one part of improving health in a community. People should also know about personal hygiene practices that will help keep them healthy. So, over the next four years, the SIVs will also conduct basic hygiene classes for villagers, schoolteachers and children.
The latest iteration of WFL will also see SIVs working with Cambodians to press used soap scraps into bars, to be given out at the hygiene classes. The SIVs will also contribute towards increasing the green cover of Cambodian schools by planting trees there.
SIV Seluasundram Nagalingam (in orange, smiling) at a workshop to press soap scraps from hotels into new bars.
The WFL project augments the Cambodian government’s national strategy for rural Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) which aims to provide every person in a rural community with sustained access to safe water supply and sanitation services, and a hygienic living environment by 2025.
Mr Neak Nerun, Deputy Governor of Siem Reap Province, said during the launch: “Water plays a vital role in the survival of our crops, animals, and more importantly, us – humans. Access to clean water is essential. In its absence we will suffer from diarrhoea, stunting, and other diseases.
“In addition, treating these diseases takes time and money, causing economic loss to the family and society. To bring to reality our vision of 100 per cent clean water supply to rural communities, we need to involve all relevant stakeholders, human resources and financial resources. We will continue to work actively with organisations towards this goal.”
On a global scale, the WFL programme contributes towards global efforts such as UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, one of which aims for universal access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Applications for volunteers for the programme are now open. Find out more here.