As part of our Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, our company selected four volunteers to help out in the Clean Water Project with JWOC for 6 Days. I was fortunate to be the team of volunteers to have the opportunity to contribute. I arrived in Cambodia on 19th October 2010 and immediately we made our way to JWOC Headquarters in Siem Reap. I was greeted by Andy and Camilla, the Managing Directors of JWOC. They gave us a briefing on Clean Water Project and touched on the issues faced by the villagers. We were given a schedule for our volunteering roles over the past few days.
The following morning, we were picked up from our guesthouse to help out in the construction of Bio-Sand Filters (BSFs). It was something new for me as I have never tried pouring concrete or doing anything similar. At the end of the day, although my hands were blackened with grease, oil and concrete, my heart was filled with simple contentment.
The next day, we started out early from our guesthouse. Sokhorn, JWOC’s Clean Water Project Manager, picked us up and drove us and 17 boxes of donated items we had brought with us from our guesthouse to JWOC for sorting in order to ensure the items were distributed in a fair, calm and organized way. Andy explained that JWOC’s clean water project relies on fair and equal distribution of all the resources offered. Therefore, JWOC must ensure therefore that all the benefits given through a JWOC project are shared out equally or it would risk jeopardizing the other aspects of the project. I was sincerely touched by Andy’s opinions on this matter and it clearly shows his dedication.
After delivering the items at JWOC, we had our first trip up the Knarong Veas village to assist in the distribution of the BSFs and an educational seminar to teach the villagers how to use it. Along with Monnoreth – a JWOC scholarship student and Clean Water officer - my colleague and I delivered the BSFs to three homes using manual carts. The BSF organisation sent their employees to assist the villagers in installing the BSF. While installing the BSF, I spotted a well next to the house. Sokhorn mentioned that well was shared by many families around and most villagers had to walk several kilometers just to get their water. In addition, during the dry season, the villagers could only get a limited water supply from the well. He pointed out that with our company’s financial support for well construction and BSFs, the villagers will have much greater access to clean water even during the dry season.
On the following day, we went back to the village to help out with well construction. When we arrived, the well was already drilled and the local construction company has already begun the work. I helped out with screwing the bolts to secure the water pump base and to lay the bricks. Although the bricks I have laid were not a pretty sight and the local construction workers had to do remedial works on the bricks, I was satisfied that I was able to contribute. In the afternoon, we left the well construction to the trusty hands of construction professionals and made our way to the Knarong Veas Elementary School to give out vital supplies to the children including their core school textbooks, stationary and other items.
At the Elementary School, we did a Q&A session with the students on topics such as malaria and personal hygiene. We asked the questions in English and Sokhorn translated it into Khmer language for the students. I heard so many enthusiastic *wooooo* whenever we gave out soft-toys to children who answered correctly! We ended the experience at school by giving each student 3 brand new textbooks and either stationary or soft-toys depending on their grade level. The stationary and soft-toys came from donations from our colleagues and another Singaporean lady.
It was a heartwarming experience to see the beaming smiles of these kids.
On the last day of the volunteering trip, we were split in three groups to conduct Hygiene Seminars and distribute the clothing donations to the villagers. Sokhorn tasked me to take photographs during the Seminar and to distribute the hygiene packs and clothing donations. I was grouped with three Scholarship students and another of my colleagues.
Miss Ra Ya delivered a witty and engaging presentation for the villagers. It was heartening to see all the villagers coming to the Hygiene Seminar and for them to participate actively in the answering questions and doing demonstrations. When we handed out the hygiene packs and clothing donations, I was so touched when the villagers thanked us profusely. There were some villagers who immediately put on the clothing and admired each other’s new outfits!
The time I have spent with villagers may have been short but they have warmed up my heart. Their genuine smiles and “Or-Kun” (Thank you in Khmer Language) made my trip completely worth it. The trip realigns my mission and purpose in my life. I will definitely be on more of such trips to serve the community.
Thank you JWOC for giving such a life-changing experience and I hope the best for Andy, Camilla and all staff at JWOC in their mission to improve Cambodian lives.