Reposted from our company blog…but all my words and experiences…
The journey began during the Singapore Design Forum in April 2016. Bill Bensley heard about our Clarity Water Filters for the first time. Immediately he was gung-ho to do a project with us in Cambodia, where he has designed and masterminded the Shinta Mani Hotel in Siem Reap and where the home of the locally registered non-profit organization Shinta Mani Foundation (SMF) is.Bill ordered 200 Clarity Water filters right on the spot and the Kohler Asia Pacific team was so excited about this first order to Southeast Asia that we did a fundraiser at our international customers dinner during the Kitchen & Bath China tradeshow in 2016 to raise the money for an additional 160 filters.Over the next few months, we got to know SMF and the team in Cambodia much better. SMF focuses on developing the communities in and around Siem Reap, Cambodia, through their mission “Open Doors, Open Hearts”, leads in responsible tourism, enhances the lives of individuals and helps to alleviate the constraints of poverty.The foundation provides education, small business loans, sustainable farming, and healthcare:
- The Development Center gives unskilled, often underprivileged, young people a chance to learn skills that will lead to meaningful employment. The students are generally sponsored by Shinta Mani
- The small, interest-free business loans are actually ‘materials on loan’. SMF buys the materials and provides basic business classes for future entrepreneurs. The repayments are then used to fund new loans to micro-enterprises in the community.
- Through a partnership with World Vegetable Center and USAID, SMF established an experimental farm to grow vegetables using old practices of seed selection and crop rotation as well as natural pest repellents. The farm is also a place where local families can learn about sustainable and ethical farming.
- And, of course, healthcare. That is where we come in with the Clarity Water filters. But Shinta Mani is doing a lot more. The Foundation supports local and international medical professionals who go out in the rural areas for medical check-ups and to teach about health matters.
The Foundation has established a wide network of local healthcare organizations in the area. Cambodian and visiting medical professionals regularly visit these facilities to raise the awareness in the local communities of preventive health issues. The villagers often don’t know what they could do to improve their health, or where they could go to get help. One project that stands out to us is educating the rural population about healthy teeth.
Healthy teeth and health in general, however, can only be achieved with relatively clean water.Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, but more than 70% of Cambodians live in rural areas and the country has one of the lowest urbanization rates in the region. The overall poverty rate in the country decreased from 53.2% in 2004 to 20.5% in 2011 and access to improved water and sanitation services relatively increased. In 2015, it was even reported that urban areas have now 100% access to water.Ulrich Zachau, World Bank’s Country Director for Southeast Asia, stated: “Cambodia has been a leader in Southeast Asia in reducing poverty.”However, poverty remains concentrated in Cambodia’s rural areas where many inequalities exist. Although rice farming, projects from NGOs and donors help to reduce poverty, many people lack the education and means to get access to clean water and proper sanitation. There are barriers of gender, age, disabilities, and living conditions that are major constraints and hinder the chances to improve their lives.
And it is exactly in these areas where SMF helps.In the beginning of June 2017, Brad Akins, SMF executive director, and his team donated Clarity Water filters to three different communities.
- The first 150 water filters went to health authorities and centers in and around Siem Reap, including the four hospitals in the city.
- The second donation of 60 filters was to Lotus Kids Club (LKC), a village of migrant families run by Senhoa Foundation. The families are mostly ethnic Vietnamese that are stateless and hence face difficulties getting support. Senhoa helps these communities and street-working children and their families through offering education, basic healthcare and positive community building activities.
- And the third donation, where we were happy to join SMF, took place in Roka Village in Western Battambang. In this remote village, we handed out another 150 filters.