Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Friday, April 22, 2011

Water quality in Baray

In the recent trip, we were able to take water samples for chemical and microbiological analyses from various locations at the places we frequented.

These places were, from West to East:

a] Boeung Rial:
i) from a water container of their drinking water, obtained from the lake;
ii) direct from the lake source itself;
iii) from an open well.
b] Phum Ley:
i) tube-well at the school;
ii) tube-well at centre of village;
iii) open well at centre of village;
iv) just outside Phum Ley, at a ditch.
c] Andaut:
pumped water from an open well
d] Baray:
i) un-filtered water from open well at SOLAR Cafe;
ii) filtered water from open well at SOLAR Cafe;
iii) pumped water from open well at Khmer Village Homestay;
iv) drawn water from open well at Palm Village.

The results below:
If you need a better print-out of the data, please drop me an email. For reference of what the WHO standards are, please check out their publication:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

You can't imagine where they drink from....

The story of the widow of Zarephath and Elijah during the God-ordained drought reminded me of the water quality project we did during this last trip. We sampled sources of drinking water from more than 10 locations in various villages. I will report of the results later on when I have received them.

What was a horrific eye opener was discovering where some of their unreported sources were. We would like to think they source their water from rivers/streams, open wells and the tube wells we provide. If tube wells easily accessible, they will certainly use them. Do they boil the water before drinking? Often no. We asked if they would carry clean boiled water with them when they go to the fields to work. Their answer? No. Where would they drink from, then? Apparently they just drank directly from the rivulets/irrigation run offs by the padi fields.

We wanted to view some of these streams by padi fields so that we can sample the water for analyses, but this being the dry season, few such streams were evident. Instead a ditch like this with stagnant foul water was often used as well for drinking. Drinking techniques include a cursory separation of surface debris before scooping out water with the cupped palm to drink. Sometimes they would lay their krama on the surface, and using it as a crude filter, drink through the krama fabric.

We were horrified.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A question of attitudes - lessons from a Lebanese widow

A young Lebanese widow and her son was preparing for her last meal when she came across the strange man. The land had been gripped by a severe drought and famine. With no way to fend for herself and her son, the widow had rationed whatever food she had until all she had left was just a handful of flour and some oil. Hardly enough for even a small loaf of bread. Her starving body reduced to barely skin and bones, she scavenged for some sticks to fuel a fire so that she could bake the flour for a last meal before she and her son will just lie down and await the inevitability of a slow death by starvation.

Then she came across the crazy man. A strange old Israelite with an even stranger story. He had apparently been hiding out in the ravines by a brook. Fed by ravens, he had held out until the brook itself ran dry. Then he had come looking for her because his God had sent him to her.

To her? She could hardly believe his story. Even less so his demands of her. He wanted her to get him water to drink ... and a piece of bread. Did he not know about the drought and famine? Was he so unaware of the direness of her situation, that she was preparing for her very last meal, and that even that wasn't enough for a decent meal for her and her son?

She hardly believed his story. And although she believed his God exists, as a non-Israelite she didn't quite believe that He, an Israelite God, was her God.

But the crazy man told her not to worry, and that his God had sent him. He told her go ahead and make him a loaf of bread. And if she did so, her flour would not run out, neither her oil.

Trapped between disbelief and desperation, she took that leap of faith and welcomed him into her home. Despite the fact that she had barely enough to stave off hunger pangs for just a few hours before she would completely exhaust her food stores, she welcomed him to share that last morsel of food with her.

A step of faith. An act of grace. She could not have known that she was to be as much his salvation as he was to be hers. And through this, she has become immortalized in biblical history.

I got to thinking how often we are constrained by what we perceive as what we are not, or what we have not. We can't achieve this, or that, because we are not rich and powerful or highly educated. Yet our God is strong in our very weakness. The above account of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16) exemplifies the power of obedience and faith even when we believe we are struggling through drought and famine.

Because our God is strong and faithful.

May we remain faithful in our work, and our flour and oil never run out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A question of attitudes?

In the course of our work in Cambodia we have been through many communities. We try to evaluate the needs of the community, but more importantly, the quality of the village leadership as well as the commitment of the leadership and community to the educational mission in their own community. In simple words, we are interested to know if the community values education and will encourage the children to go to school.

On this last trip we had the opportunity to visit two villages with somewhat similar needs but very different approaches to the problem. The differences highlight just how important community cultural attitudes are in determining effectiveness of what we try to do.

Village A was sited about 1.3 kms from the nearest school. This was a fairly large primary school. The road to the school was a well maintained dirt track which passed through residential housing all the way to the school edge. The village head complained that the children could not go to school because the kids had to walk the 1.3 kms, and that as the school was situated on the main road, the journey was dangerous for the children.

Village B was a small isolated community. The nearest school was close to a temple about 1.2kms away. In the dry season, the children can walk to school through dirt tracks by the padifields. In the wet season however the fields and tracks are flooded, and the children often had to walk part of the way and travel by boat just to make it to school. The villagers were concerned that as the children were too young, and had not yet learnt to swim, this presented a very hazardous journey for them. One of the villagers said that as they felt it was important for the children to go to school, he would marshal them into long boats and ferry them to school.

It seemed to me that while Village A was just prepared to give up over the slightest obstacle, Village B was committed to find their own solutions because they felt education was important.

It was really not surprising, that despite being so isolated, Village B children were highly represented in high school and universities. Attitudes are important.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


There were more than a few raised eyebrows when our bus driver showed up with his pistol, complete with holster, belt and bullets. This seemed really unnecessary nowadays. We had been accompanied during the last trip by weapon toting armed guards, but this had seemed more for display than anything else, since the District Officer was officiating.

So we really don't know what to make of this display of machismo. Was it really necessary? Was there a level of threat we were unaware of? The locals were neither concerned, nor aware of any risks.

For me, this was a grim reminder of the very real heritage of violence that still affected the community.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Phum Ley - an update

We entered Phum Ley in 2009, impressed by the relative orderliness and commitment of the village to the idea of a school. Two years later, we have not been disappointed. The school compound remains neat and clean, with newly constructed flower beds. The Beng tree we planted to commemorate the opening of the school didn't look too healthy though, but the school was healthy enough.

We met up with the headman. He didn't look that great. Suffering from an indeterminate heart condition, he look rather puffy. But he remained well enough to show us around and to meet with the NUS team.

On this trip, I had brought a pair of NUS academics, Dr Wong Chia Siong and Dr Liz Alderman. The idea was to explore the possibility that the NUS Department of Environment and Public Health could help us generate some proper data on health and nutrition in a model village such as Phum Ley. With some proper data, we can be a bit more systematic in our assistance of the village.

Friday, April 1, 2011

School@Andaut - an update

Andaut is the village that is the farthest East we have gone to, and farthest from the Tonle Sap. It is pathetically dry, and with poor agricultural land. We managed to excavate an open well in the land where the church has been built, but, where the school is supposed to be built, we have had no success putting in a drill well. The drill has managed to go down about 20ms, but had to stop as there was no more water to work the drill. The contractors will try again and hopefully they will be able to go down to at least 40m, where they expect water to be. Without the access to water, the building of the school cannot proceed.

So we wait.

Please pray for God's providence. And we are confident He will provide as He always has.