Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Twelve-year-old Kankham used to walk two hours a day to collect water. This World Water Day, on 22 March, we are celebrating how access to clean water changed Kankham’s childhood and the lives of many other children like him.

Kankham loves playing football after school with his friends. But he’s only been able to do this for the past year.

Living in a remote village in Laos with few resources and facilities, Kankham spent a lot of his childhood collecting water from a river far from home. He would wake up at dawn every morning to help his mother, Khonejai, fetch water for the day for drinking and cleaning. Together, they carried three buckets, a total of 25L, of water back home. It was a tiresome one-hour trek up and down the hills of Houaphanh Province.

In the evenings, Kankham and his mother repeated their walk to the river: Kankham carrying a 5L bucket and Khonejai, two 10L buckets. The water they collected was just enough to last them through the night. In the morning they would make the trek to the river again.

For half of the year, during Laos’ wet season, the walk to the river was especially tiresome and dangerous. Kankham and his mother navigated muddy and slippery paths as they balanced buckets full of water.

A few years ago, Kankham became very sick with diarrhoea after drinking unsafe water from the river. “We had to walk 8kms to the hospital,” Khonejai says. “It was a hard time for the family.”

Kankham, age 12, and his mother Khonejai (pictured above) used to walk two hours every day to collect water from a river far from their remote village in Houaphanh Province. A newly built clean water system in their community means Kankham has more time to learn and play.

This year’s World Water Day theme – accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis – puts a spotlight on the devastating impacts the lack of clean water and sanitation can have on the lives of children and their families.

About 829,000 people – including more than a third of children – are estimated to die each year from diarrhoea because of unsafe drinking water, and poor sanitation and hygiene. In Laos, only 55 per cent of people have access to basic handwashing facilities, including clean water and soap.

In 2022 ChildFund in Laos worked with local partners and community members to build a clean water system in Kankham’s village, benefiting more than 400 people. The gravity-fed water system collects and filters water from the river, and stores it in a large tank in the village. Community members helped to build a plumbing system, connecting the water in the tank directly to 88 houses. Today, more than 100 families in Kankham’s village are accessing clean water instantly through taps in their homes.

ChildFund in Laos and local partners helped to install a clean water system in Kankham’s village in 2022. Kankham and his mother Khonejai (pictured above) can now access clean water from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Khonejai says Kankham is healthier and safer now that they no longer need to walk the long distance to the river, and can get clean water at home. She also says: “I have more time to spend with my family.”

For Kankham, he can get back to doing the things he loves. “I have more time in the morning to enjoy breakfast and get ready for school,” Kankham says. “After class, I have free time to play football with my friends.”

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Children in Kankham’s village, in remote Laos, enjoy clean, running water in their community for the first time.

How you can help change children’s lives this World Water Day

This World Water Day, on 22 March, you can give the gift of clean water and sanitation to children like Kankham who need it most. Everyone should have the right to access clean water and sanitation around the globe. 

ChildFund Australia’s Gifts For Good range is a fantastic initiative for donations this World Water Day. Gifts For Good incorporates a number of water-based gifts that have the power to change lives. 

You can help provide children and families overseas with access to clean water and sanitation by donating:

  • A hand pump well: This will provide clean water for children and their families for drinking, cleaning and bathing. Children may no longer have to make long, dangerous journeys on foot to collect water from unreliable, contaminated sources. This will also offer children the protection from the risk of deadly waterborne diseases.
  • A deepwater borehole: Imagine your impact when you give the gift of clean water that a whole school – or even an entire community – can rely upon for years to come.
  • A hand washing station: This is a simple gift with the power to help everyone in a community improve sanitation and hygiene, and stay healthy. 

Whether you’re one half of a blossoming romance, or a steadfast single with a best friend to match, the pressure is on to get that perfect Valentine’s Day gift. It’s pretty serious business right?

For those Valentines looking for a more meaningful gift, look no further than our range of Gifts for Good, a great Valentine’s Day charity gift for everyone.

You can even personalise your gift and make it even more memorable for the children in need, as each Gift for Good purchase also comes with the option to send a card, download a pdf you can print at home or even send an ecard with your own personalised message.

1. Donate a furry friend as a Valentine’s Day gift

Animals can make loving companions, but for families living in poverty they can offer so much more. They can help provide a family with nutritious food and provide a source of income.

Consider donating one of these furry friends as your charity gift this Valentine’s Day:

  • Chickens: A dozen chickens provide nutritious eggs for children to eat and additional eggs can be sold at local markets.. 
  • Goats: Goat milk can help children grow up strong, and goat manure can be used as a fertiliser for crops and gardens. 
  • Sheep: Wool can be used to weave textiles for the family, which in turn can be sold at markets. Sheep milk can be turned into cheese and yoghurt, which can help children grow up strong. 

2. Give a child a bright future with an educational gift

Children around the world struggle to remain in school, because their parents can’t afford tuition or they’re forced to drop out to work and support the family.

You and your Valentine can give a child a bright future with these educational gifts:

  • School supplies: Pens, pencils and notebooks are unaffordable for many parents in developing countries. Your generous gift will provide a child what they need for an entire school year. 
  • Scholarship for a student: Giving a scholarship as your Valentine’s Day gift will not only assist a student in need, but will help them develop the confidence to succeed, affecting a cycle of positive change for their community.

3. Charity gifts that keep a child safe and sound

The cold reality for many children overseas is life without comfort, and the threat of preventable diseases. Make your Valentine’s Day gift count with a donation that will keep children safe: 

  • Blankets: Some children sleep on a concrete slab or a hard dirt floor, but a blanket and pillow could keep a child warm and comfortable on a cold winter’s night.
  • Mosquito nets: Mosquito bites are one of the most common ways malaria is transmitted in developing countries. A simple net can protect a child from mosquitos while they sleep.

4. Nutritious food for thought as your charity gift

have a reliable source of food and clean water. You and your loved one can change lives this Valentine’s Day by donating one of these charity gifts to children and families in need:

  • Food for two families for one month: Help families in need by donating a food pack as a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift. Your gift will provide nutritious beans, lentils, cooking oil and other supplies to make ends meet.
  • Three fruit trees and vegetable seeds: As a source of food, additional income and shade, these trees can help give families a fresh start. Seeds will grow into vegetable gardens that provide nutritious food for young children.
  • One handwashing station: Handwashing can slow the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. But children in many communities lack access to clean water or soap for washing. A handwashing station could help keep children safe and encourage lifelong, lifesaving habits.

Give a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift to your loved one

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all bling and glamour. Give a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift to your loved one, and show them how it only takes one person to change a life any day of the year.