To God Be All The Glory

May 27, 2015

by Jeff Adams, Director of Communications and Creative Services, Samaritan's Purse Canada

Samaritan's Purse's “Water for Kids” trips to Cambodia are helping to build water filters for schools.

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Samaritan’s Purse invites you to join one of 15 mission teams to Cambodia that will bring clean water to schoolchildren in 2015.

Although we’ve had a life-size model of a school water filter in Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s Calgary offices for more than a year, and although I regularly walk by, I never stopped to closely study it.

But now that I’m in Cambodia for two weeks as part of a team of Canadian volunteers helping to install school filters, the technology—and its impact—have definitely caught my attention.

When we arrive at each rural school site, Samaritan’s Purse has already poured a thick two-tiered concrete platform, installed water lines inside the foundation to accommodate more than a dozen water taps, and provided three large blue plastic tanks.

Two tanks are designed to sit horizontally, and one vertically. It takes three of us to lift one of the horizontal tanks onto the platform’s top level. The 1,500-liter vessel is large, awkward, and very hot to the touch in the almost 50C heat. We’re sweating profusely as we position it correctly and drill holes for PVC pipes.

To God Be All The Glory

Pouring bags of gravel and sand into the water filtration tank.

This “upper” tank stores the raw unfiltered water. In most cases, the raw water comes from a nearby pond or dug-out rain reservoir. In other cases, it will be trucked to a school site.

Next, we lift the vertical—or filtering tank—into place, and drill more holes for PVC pipes. The pipes will enable water to flow from the raw-water storage tank into the filtration tank. We also connect and place more PVC pipes on the bottom of the filtration tank so after water has been filtered downward, it will flow into the third and final tank, which stores the filtered water.

Once we have all three tanks in place, we tear open several bags of gravel, rinse the gravel with water we brought with us, and pour it into the filtration tank—the one in the middle. We repeat the process, this time with bags of sand, until the filtration tank is about half full. Then we begin pumping gallon after gallon of raw water into the filtration tank to clean the gravel and sand as much as possible.

We know we’re making good progress when the water flowing out of the filtration tank that was dark grey when we began is now relatively clear. We’ll allow the remaining water in the filtration tank to sit for about two weeks so a scummy layer of micro-organisms forms on top.

This “bio-layer” combines with the layers of gravel and sand to create a highly effective filtration system that quickly transforms potentially deadly raw water into safe, drinkable water for hundreds of students and staff at each school site.

When the bio-layer has fully formed, and the entire filtration system is fully functional, the water that flows out of it will be stored in the filtered-water storage tank so students and school staff can safely drink from it or wash their hands whenever they want.

We won’t be in Cambodia long enough to see that happen at the three schools where we installed filters. But we were able to visit another school where an earlier group of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers from Canada installed a filter a few weeks ago.

To God Be All The Glory

Kids filling their water bottles during recess.

That school’s water source is a stagnant pond, filled with lily pads and surrounded by thick mud. But after the water has flowed through the Samaritan’s Purse filter, it’s safe and drinkable. Our entire team watched with delight, and more than a few tears of joy, as the students ran out of school during their recess, turned on the taps to fill their water bottles, drank as much as they wanted, then ran off to play.

It made all the hours of assembling the filters, under Cambodia’s blazing sun, well worth it.

“We need clean water so badly for our children so they can be healthy and go to school,” said Bok Pot, a leader in one of the three desperately poor villages where our 11-member team installed school filters. “Samaritan’s Purse is the only organization that has come here to help us.”

To God be all the glory.


Do you want to join a Samaritan’s Purse “Water for Kids” team and build school filters in Cambodia? Go to to apply and/or learn more.

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Before-and-after: the pond water (left) and the filtered water (right) - the filter had been operating for only a few minutes!