Stories of Change

Sokny stands in the doorway of her family's new, private latrine.

“My family is poor so we could never afford to have our own latrine.”

Yos Sokny and her family don’t own land. Instead, they live on public land alongside railroad tracks in their western Cambodian village. It’s a very vulnerable situation for anyone, let alone a family with three children ranging from 4 to 17 years old. They primarily rely on the income that Sokny’s husband, Phan Daoy, earns as a duck egg incubator in another person’s business. He got this job just last year.

The $1,500 he earned in his first year is a significant improvement over what he earned as a casual laborer before, but it still wasn’t enough to meet his family’s needs. Sokny works as a casual laborer during rice sowing and harvest seasons, but she only earns income for a few months each year and only adds about $150 to her family’s income. 

Like countless other Cambodian families who face the challenges of being landless and poor, Sokny and Daoy took on debt just to get by. Eventually, they reached sad milestone of needing their oldest child, their 17-year-old daughter, to drop out of school and work alongside her mother as a casual laborer to contribute to the family’s income. Luckily, their middle child, a son, still attends school…for now. 

Our partner, Rural Development Association, recognized the family’s vulnerable situation. They scheduled a meeting with the family to talk about the types of work that they offer with CWS support and to understand how they could best work with the family. Because Sokny’s family doesn’t own land, they weren’t a good fit for the home gardening and livelihood programs yet. But as they talked, Sokny realized that her family could benefit from knowing more about improving their health and hygiene. She joined water, sanitation and hygiene activities and learned about water treatment options, personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. She learned about the health hazards of using fields or streams as bathrooms, which her family had been doing. With this new information, Sokny also received support to build her own sanitary latrine.

“My family is poor so we could never afford to have our own latrine. I am happy for the support so we can stop defecating in the open,” Sokny says. Not only is the family relieved of the embarrassment of such a humiliating situation, but, “We now see how the latrine and good hygiene have helped us improve our health.” She noted that her family members rarely get sick now, so they don’t spend as much money as before on clinic visits and medicines. These savings alone have also helped the family improve their situation. Now that the family has small savings and Daoy has a better job, CWS will continue working with them to see if there are other ways to help them improve their lives.