Ms. Hak Hun: Health and Empowerment through WASH project

Written by Asta Pasanen

Location: Labeok village, Siem Reap province

Summary: The skills Ms. Hak Hun learned through WASH project reduce illness in her family and boost her self-confidence for building a better future.

Ms. Hak Hun is a villager in Labeok village, Doun Keo commune of Pourk district in Siem Reap province. She has participated in WASH project which primary object is to improve the poorest villagers’ knowledge of and access to sustainable potable water, sanitation and good hygiene practices. The project was conducted in her village by Banteay Srei from April 2016 to March 2017.

Hak Hun and her son Hak Nech

Hak Hun and her son Hak Nech. Left side clay containers used to store drinking water, right side land being prepared for growing crops.

Ms. Hak Hun was born and has lived all her life in Labeok village. She is now 37 years old with three children aged 7, 6 and 1. The two eldest children attend school regularly, but the day of our interview with Hun they had to stay home since there was no money for school lunch. Hun herself had no access to education as, in addition to that her family was poor, her mother was very ill and could not send her to school at all. Hun is a single mother, divorced since 2013, and the only provider for her family. Her income consists of growing crops and using them to make brooms that she sells at the market.

Participating the WASH training provided by Banteay Srei has increased Hun’s knowledge substantially. She has understood the importance of clean drinking water, and has registered to purchase a water filter, which is expected to arrive soon. For the time being she gets her potable water from other villagers and stores it in the new clay containers on her backyard. Before learning about the benefits of clean water she and her family drank the water directly from the well, exposing themselves to waterborne diseases.

At the corner of Hun’s land there is a brand-new toilet. She hired a company to set it up after learning about its sanitary benefits in comparison to open defecation which used to be the common practice in her family before. Apart from the old habit being unsanitary, according to Hun it was difficult to find a suitable place, especially during the rainy season. That is easy to believe when looking around: there are no trees or bushes to give one a hideout anywhere in sight. Hun built the toilet walls herself using palm leaves, and the job was completed in March 2017. Inside the toilet one finds a bar of soap to be used afterwards.

Hak Hun and Hak Nech pictured in front of their new toilet.

Hak Hun and Hak Nech pictured in front of their new toilet.

Hygiene practices in the family have improved notably. Learning about the key role washing one’s hands plays in disease prevention inspired Hun to set up a hand washing station on the yard in front of her house. Now the entire family makes sure to always wash hands at least before eating and after going to toilet. Hun finds it very important that her children learn the good hygienic practices and make them part of their daily routine.

In community perspective, Hun finds that the entire village has progressed in WASH related issues. Before there wasn’t any sanitation at all in the whole village, and hygiene practices were very poor. Now villagers are implementing the newly learned practices and making the village a cleaner place for everyone to live in.

Hun feels very happy to have participated the WASH project. Besides understanding the importance of potable water, sustainable sanitation and good hygienic practices, information that was not available for her before the program, she also feels empowered. Learning these important things has helped to build her self-confidence: she now feels smarter and believes in her abilities and potential to achieve better life for herself and her family. She is passing the learned information to her children, resulting to the next generation growing into the healthy practices and regarding them as normal. The improved WASH practices in the family also have concrete results as Hun reports them having suffered less diarrhoeas and fevers after starting to implement the practices.

In the future Hun plans to expand her crop growing with the help of participation in Banteay Srei’s projects, and later she also aspires to begin raising chickens and pigs. With the increased income she wants to build a better house for her family.