Saturday, December 05, 2009

Shannon Ferrier - Clean Water Project (December 2009)

Late November / Early December 2009: Shannon Ferrier, a JWOC volunteer, spoke to scholarship student Sarann and accompanied him during his weekly volunteering with the Clean Water project. Here is what she wrote about her experience…

This morning I met Sarann, a 22 year old scholarship student at JWOC. In return for his scholarship, he volunteers every Saturday morning with JWOC’s Clean Water Project. He is in second year at University, majoring in Finance.

Sarann comes from a large family- he has 8 brothers and sisters. When he graduated from high school, he worked as a security guard at the airport. After hearing about JWOC from a friend, he applied, passed the test and was accepted as a scholarship student. He leads a very busy life. Six days a week he goes to university from 6 to 9 pm and 5 days a week he volunteers with another NGO from 7.30 to 5 pm. On Sundays he studies, does homework and washes his clothes.

We left JWOC about 8.15 on Saturday morning—three of us in a tuk-tuk and most of the students doubling up on motorbikes. It was a 25 minute ride to the village of Branat. When we arrived at the village chief’s house we found several villagers waiting for us, and large reed mats laid on the ground where they could sit or squat. A table held a new ceramic water filter and a large bowl of water ready for the demonstration.

Attendance was taken. We were told that it’s very important that one responsible family member attend the demonstration. If the filters are not properly cleaned and maintained they won’t provide the clean water necessary for good health.

Sarann demonstrated each step and assembly of the filter – immersing the filter in water, scrubbing it with a rough pad, then carefully rinsing it in fresh water. All parts of the filter were washed, scrubbed and rinsed before assembly.

When the demonstration was finished, the students patiently repeated the whole procedure. They then asked for volunteers from the assembled villagers to step forward and repeat the procedure a third time.

While the demonstration was going on, the project’s assistant manager, a former JWOC scholarship student himself, watched the audience carefully. Later, he took aside two who he felt were not watching or understanding what was going on. When they were questioned, it was apparent that he was right. They were told to send another family member to the next day’s demonstration. They did not receive a filter that day.

At this point about 20 filters were carried out of the chief’s house where they had been stored. They were given to the villagers who strapped them into large baskets on their bicycles or hoisted them to their shoulders and headed for home.

In a few weeks the scholarship students will be back to inspect the filters, take water samples for lab testing and provide further instruction on personal hygiene – particularly handwashing and teeth cleaning. Even though the instruction was in Khmer, it was very easy to understand as I watched the demonstration.

I learned from Sarann that before he became a JWOC scholarship student and volunteer, he had known nothing about the importance of personal hygiene and clean water. He said this had been very helpful to him and that he had shared his knowledge with family and friends.

It was an educational and very inspirational day for me.

Lee Ferrier - JWOC Microfinance (December 2009)

Late November / Early December 2009: Lee Ferrier, a JWOC volunteer, spoke to scholarship student Chankakda and accompanied her during her weekly volunteering with the Microfinance project. Here is what he wrote about his experience…

I accompanied Kakda when she went into the community as a project worker in the JWOC micro- finance project. Her duties this day were to meet the loan recipients, collect from them their required weekly payments, and to discuss any problems they were having with their businesses.

Kakda is a scholarship student in her 4th year at university majoring in English literature. She is a 26 year old qualified school teacher who wishes to pursue a career as an English teacher at a private school or university.

It is hard not to be impressed with her dedication and hard work. She is employed as a teacher at two schools from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm and attends her university classes from 6.00 to 9;00 pm, all of this 6 days a week. On Sundays she volunteers at JWOC.

Kakda told us that the project not only provides loans, but also holds workshops to help loan recipients learn good business practices and money management. They also learn to set goals and, in cases of group loans, to solve problems in group discussion.

We were scheduled to visit three recipients, but only needed to visit two, because the other had dropped by the JWOC community center to make her required payment. Her business was selling used clothing at a local market - the loan enabled her to buy clothes for resale.

We visited a "group recipient" - first time borrowers are required to borrow as a group and all must take responsibility to pay off the loan of the group. The loan payment was made without a hitch. The meeting, which included the recording of the payment and providing a receipt record to the borrower, was conducted in a friendly but business-like manner. In this case the borrowers were a husband running a hand laundry business, his wife running a small street-side café, and a neighbor working as a self-employed metal worker, who needed a small loan to pay for gas for his motorbike so he could go to job sites to do his work.

Kakda credits Michèle, the Project Manager, and Andrew and Camilla, the JWOC Directors, for the effective administration of JWOC, and the guidance and assistance they provide to the scholarship student volunteers - all in the pursuit of assisting the community. Kakda says she too is learning about money management, good business practices and the setting of priorities and goals. She plans to continue giving back to her community. After completing University, while pursuing her career as an English teacher, she wants to volunteer in the management of an NGO --- relying on her experience gained at JWOC.

I do not doubt for a moment that she will do it.


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