I sat next to a patch of ginger plants, shaded from the morning sun watching six village chiefs and heads of families being trained about good personal hygiene, how to use water filters and basic water pump repair by a group of university students and a well expert. It seemed a complete role reversal with the younger generation teaching the older but the training was interesting and engaging and everybody had a good time.
I was glad to see the filter training and well demonstration, as I saw a tangible change in the villagers’ lives. I wish I had the chance to revisit village in six months time to see how these changes had made a difference to their way of life.
I thought that I would feel awkward being the only non Cambodian person for miles around, but the people I met were so hospitable, getting me a chair to sit on and allowing me to see round the village. All I had were a few words of Khmer and the villagers had even less English, yet I felt welcome and was able to convey my gratitude. The language barrier – all the training was obviously in Khmer – made the whole experience seem very surreal, like I had fallen into another world. The countryside full of rice fields and water buffalo was among the most beautiful I have seen in South East Asia, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to see rural Cambodia for what it actually is, without tourists and commercial influence and to see a different side to the country. It really was a unique experience and I have to thank all the staff at JWOC for making it happen.