The most important element

(Emma with Dana) Water is the most important component of life. Without water there would be nothing: no humans, no animals, no plants.

Thanks to friends in my town of Dover, we helped 120 people receive clean water for life.  In 2011, during our annual town fair, Dover Days, we raised $1,050 to built 3 different wells in the rural part of Cambodia. After seeing first hand during our year-long adventure what it was like to live in this rural area without a clean source of water, my family decided to take initiative and help these people.

Our guide in Siem Reap, Phal has made it his personal mission to bring clean water to his fellow Cambodians.  As travelers learn about his country, they want to make a difference in the lives of people they meet. In 2005, he started working with the travelers to build wells. Now, he has built 400 wells, helping over 6500 rural Cambodians.  How does he do it?

First, he has a list of families who could benefit from a well.  When the next $350 of donations comes in, he buys the supplies he needs and sends one of his two teams of ten people.  One day to dig a 100-foot 4-inch bore hole and drop 2-inch PVC pipe; one day to pour the concrete; 2 days to let it set and 1 final day to install the pump.  Phal then teaches the family how to use the well and leaves a small amount of money with them in case they need to buy any replacement parts.  For all of his driving and time, he only keeps $10 for each well for himself.  He is not getting rich; he is definitely doing it to help people, saying “you only have one life.”

In November, I went back to Cambodia with my mom who was at a board meeting for Cambodian Living Arts.  During this second trip to Cambodia, we had the privilege of visiting the three wells that were previously built. We spent two hours driving past smaller and smaller villages into the flat, barren countryside.  Down dirt roads and past motorbikes carrying pigs and grain, we came to the houses where the wells were built.

The people who had received the well were so incredibly grateful. At the first house in West Tabeng Village in the Bantei Srei district, we met the woman running the family.  Widowed since 1975, she lives in this rough house on stilts with her grandchildren.  This new source of water will last them forever and make their lives happier. As Phal translated, she told us all of the great things that this water has done for their family.  The other families weren’t even home; they were living in the fields for 2 straight weeks, harvesting rice and other crops.

For us, $350 is a few trips to the grocery store for food that will last a few weeks, but for these rural Cambodians, $350 is a well that will last forever and give them the simple most important element of life.


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