SIF-ITE Collaboration Brings Youth Volunteers to Cambodia Clean Water Project
Singapore, 22 August 2013 – The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) today signed a Letter of Collaboration that will turn ITE College East students into overseas volunteers with the SIF’s signature Water For Life (WFL) project in Cambodia.
This first-time collaboration will lead to more than one outcome. Besides enabling the students to volunteer overseas and contribute to sustainable development through the WFL project, it will also create an environment for experiential learning to take place, and provide the platform for pilot testing of an ITE-designed water cleaning technology.
Since 2010, WFL has been improving access to clean drinking water for and improving the quality of life of Cambodian rural communities. The ITE students will build bio-sand filters – each one of which benefits a Cambodian household – in a country where, according to UNICEF, more than 30 per cent of the population have no access to clean drinking water. WFL has reduced the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases by 85 per cent and aims to impact over 17,000 Cambodian villagers by the end of its three-year run in the Siem Reap and Kampong Speu communities.
For the student volunteers, aged 16 to 18, the village environment will serve as a ‘live’ classroom, where textbook learning and theoretical knowledge will meet practical application. For instance, in the course of mixing construction materials to make the bio-sand filters, they will get to observe real-time chemical processes, the principles of filtration and the impact of it on a community’s ecosystem.
The collaboration will also enable field testing of the ITE-designed ion-removal water technology in WFL communities. If found feasible, the technology will be the world’s first portable, easily deployable and low-maintenance system which can effectively remove arsenic ions from contaminated water sources.
In the first year, some 50 ITE students will travel as volunteers. 20 have already travelled as volunteers with the project earlier this year, and returned with transformed perspectives. One of them, 18-year-old Ms Thilagavaani d/o Bakavathi, a second year Chemical Process Technology student from ITE College East, said: “Everything there was…different. They were poorer than Singapore...[but] it was more peaceful there. Even though the people earned very little, they always had a smile on their face. The villagers drink contaminated water and contract diarrhoea, which can even result in death for some children. Many of them live on an income of US$2 a day and hospital bills are expensive. We helped build bio-sand water filters that provide clean water for them.”
Said Ms Jean Tan, Executive Director of the SIF: “We engage Singaporeans in our mission to build a better world. This partnership reinforces our commitment to instilling the spirit of volunteerism in Singaporeans of all ages. We have seen many of the youth return from these expeditions with renewed vigour and transformed worldviews, and poised to become responsible global citizens in their own right. It is our hope that by combining classroom learning with community development work, we can continue to inspire such action for good among our youth.”
“Under this collaboration, we hope to inculcate in our students the spirit of volunteerism, through their participation in projects such as Water for Life. The building and installation of bio-sand filters in this project are especially rewarding for our ITE students, as they offer them opportunities to apply what they learn in the classrooms,” said Mr Eden Liew, Principal, ITE College East.
As the collaboration evolves, more modalities will be added, such as the introduction of ITE nursing students as specialist volunteers conducting feminine hygiene workshops for female villagers. Beyond the first batches of student volunteers from ITE College East, the collaboration will in time extend to students from the other ITE colleges.
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