When Ian and Lauren Stevens started working with Lauren’s not-for-profit Community Generation, they began by providing access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene education and resources for rural schools and homes in vulnerable Cambodian communities. Their project expanded with the Reece Grant in 2017, building filter and storage tanks in rural schools in Kampong Speu Province.
From these original projects, Ian and Lauren have received an additional $5000 in support from the Reece Grant in 2018, building household BioSand Filter systems for domestic use in rural Kampot Province where there has never been access to safe drinking water before.
“The people here have been used to drinking any sort of water. Homes have a mix of small ponds and concrete jars of stagnant rainwater. The dirty water is contaminated with all kinds of pollutants – one might contain human and animal excrement; another insects and household waste runoff – and they’ll just scoop the water out and drink it.” The result, Ian says is severe, chronic illness.
Ian and Lauren are working in Khnay Village, three hours out of Phnom Penh. Ian spent three weeks in the district over the Christmas break, helping with a project construction schedule to provide over 800 household BioSand Filter systems to these communities.
“By the time I left we had completed construction and installation of 50 filters, but the team currently build 19 a day. Lauren is there for two months project managing and working closely in the field with our local tradies, local staff, community leaders, villagers, and our local partner making sure everything runs smoothly,” says Ian.
A great strength of the program is working with the community. “The families contribute their time to help make their household filter with our tradies. Our team bolt the steel moulds together and put the pipes in the right slots. Family members then help our workers mix the concrete by hand and oil the insides of the moulds so the concrete doesn’t stick, before compacting the concrete when it’s poured. Then we all sit down together with our local technician staff and have a class on how to operate it. The classes run ongoing and also include our hygiene and sanitation program.”
“Everyone is invested and works together, having a lot of fun and learning. They roll up their sleeves and participate, and three days later their home has clean drinking water! It’s life-changing,” says Ian.
One experience, Ian says, sums up the impact of their work. An elderly woman from Kampong Speu Province, where the 2017 Reece Grant helped Community Generation build a large community BioSand filtration system and toilet block at Champacha Primary School, was kneeling and talking as if praying. “I asked someone with us what she was saying. She was thanking us. Her daughter now has a job because she’s not sick anymore and can go to work. So can her daughter’s children. The children aren’t sick anymore and can attend school regularly and play with their friends.”
“It’s so rewarding.”