In Siem Reap, Cambodia, Bruce and Raija are supporting communities to practice good hygiene and stay healthy. Here Bruce and Raija explain how training and equipping volunteer health promotors to share messages about water, sanitation and basic health, is empowering families to improve their lives.
“For many years, one facet of our work in Siem Reap, Cambodia, has intentionally focused on fostering healthy families and communities. Family hygiene is critical to the health and development of communities and many diseases can be prevented by paying close attention to basic health practices at home.
This process begins with a community’s health needs being identified through discussion with local village leaders and our enthusiastic ‘everyday health workers’, who are volunteers trained to help families practice basic health measures to ensure family health security. Once topics have been agreed upon, our ‘everyday community health workers’ gather with village leaders and influencers once a week to go through a set of basic health lessons, over the course of a year. Sessions are very practical and participants are encouraged to practice what is discussed during the training, and to then go and share this information with other families in their communities.
Most of our community health workers are women, as they readily identify with the mums in their villages who deal with health issues in their families on a daily basis. The practices our health workers can cover include the importance of washing hands with soap, drinking clean water, healthy meal preparation practices, building latrines away from water wells, and keeping animals like pigs or chickens away from the house. In partnership with households, who contribute to the costs, health workers also distribute mosquito nets in dengue and malaria ridden areas, and provide water filters to those who need them. They also work in collaboration with communities to build latrines, with the project supporting material costs and individuals providing the necessary labour.
We see enthusiastic participation from these communities as people start to realise the positive results that changing their behaviour can have. For example, when families are healthier, children go to school regularly as they’re not at home sick, parents are able to work and earn money to buy basic necessities, and to plant and harvest food for the family to eat. Water-borne diseases are also reduced, lives are saved, families are smiling…
The local church has become the centre of the wellbeing of the community; the catalyst for lasting change. And the process starts with our dedicated community health workers, who have a desire to show genuine love towards their own people and their own communities. They believe in healthy bodies, healthy communities, a healthy nation and healthy, vibrant and thriving local groups serving others.”