A New Tradition - Passing on Good Sanitation to the Next Generation
by Ramsey Kong, Samaritan's Purse field staff
Samaritan's Purse is working in Cambodia to help provide communities with knowledge and materials that will benefit future generations.
In Cambodia, tradition is very important, shaping all aspects of life. Sometimes these traditions are beneficial and help preserve the cultural heritage of Cambodia, other times the traditions prohibit families from adapting new ideas that have the potential to improve their lives.
In Ro Ha village, located in Kratie Province Cambodia, most farmers, like the generations before them, make their living through agriculture and livestock activities, with Cassava plantation as one of the major sources of income. This is a time-intensive process, starting in April or May and requiring care for the next 6 to 7 months until it can be harvested in October or November.
Mr. Ry Nim, 29 years old, and his wife, Mrs. Orn Sokhem, 28, live with their two daughters in Ro Ha village, and like others, follow the traditions passed on to them from previous generations. However, this began to change when his family partnered with Samaritan’s Purse through the Food for Life (FFL) and Water Access Projects (WAP). These two projects are working closely together in the same model homes in order to holistically improve the lives of beneficiaries, changing not just behaviors but also attitudes and beliefs. It is their hope that by providing communities with knowledge and materials, new beneficial traditions will be created that will be passed down to future generations.
As the husband, Mr. Ry is the head of his household, responsible for providing for and protecting his family. Before partnering with WAP, Mr. Ry was always worried about his wife and children when they would go out to the fields or forest to defecate, especially when they would go out early in the morning around 3 or 4 AM. Snakes, mosquitos and those waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people were his greatest concerns. However, with little extra money he did not think that he would be able to solve this problem.
WAP had previously provided a well for clean drinking water along with training on sanitation and hygiene for Mr. Ry’s family and recently continued their relationship by supporting the construction of a model latrine for their home, helping this family to take the first step forward in creating new traditions that will make their family happier, healthier and safer.
Samaritan’s Purse provided only the underground components for latrine construction while Mr. Ry and his family were responsible for constructing the shelter for the latrine. By being responsible for the shelter construction, Mr. Ry and his family felt a greater sense of responsibility and ownership for the latrine. They were so proud of their new latrine that they decided to build a shelter for the latrine that was higher quality than that of their house!
The construction of the latrine has made Mr. Ry’s life much easier and he has much less to worry about. He does not have to spend time finding a place to defecate, his children are no longer getting bitten by many mosquitos and as a result he has to spend less money on healthcare. Even more importantly, he no longer has to worry that someone will do something bad to his wife or children when they goes to defecate.
Having the latrine has provided their family with many opportunities for passing on new sanitation practices to the next generation. For example, one of his daughters was afraid to defecate in the toilet the first time, but after a bit of coaching from her parents she happily uses the toilet. This change, while seemingly small, is incredibly powerful for Ry’s family. From this generation onward they will pass on the practice of using a toilet for defecation, not the forest.
Mr. Ry would like to thank Samaritan’s Purse, specifically WAP, for providing both knowledge and materials to support his family. He said, “Without your help I could not have built a beautiful toilet like this”.