Fifty-seven-year-old Sarin is a picture of matriarchal determination. She is a widower and the full-time carer for her seven grandchildren. All of whom live with her in a small and dilapidated house in a rural district of Cambodia.
The level of poverty faced in rural Cambodia forced all Sarin’s children, and their partners, into Phnom Penh to work in factories and on construction sites. Each of them, in turn, leaving their children behind with her.
Even with financial support coming in from their city-working parents Sarin struggled, at times, to provide her grandchildren with enough food and clothing. Oftentimes, they could afford to eat only rice and fish sauce for lunch and dinner, for weeks on end.
But the biggest challenge in Sarin’s eyes?
“We did not have clean water to drink. I spent most of my day collecting firewood to boil water and then waiting for it to cool before I could give it to my grandkids.”
With all the work involved in getting clean water the children’s hygiene also suffered.
“I also spent a lot of my time (and sometimes money for treatment) looking after my grandchildren when they got sick or got diarrhea.”
So, Sarin saw it as a blessing when, in July last year, her grandson, Phal, was selected to be part of Sunshine Cambodia’s school development program, by his school principal because of their family situation.
As part of the program, Phal and his family were provided with hygiene materials (including things such as soap, masks, nail clippers and a poster of good hygiene habits), family food packages (including rice, noodles, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar), and perhaps most important of all in Sarin’s eyes, water filters.
“We have enough food now to each eat three meals a day,” she says with a smile on her face. She also reports that the grandchildren are getting much better with their hygiene habits thanks to the poster and other materials.
“And I am maybe most grateful for the water filters,” she continues, “they save me so much time and money and hard work, and most importantly now my family can have clean water and good health!”