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Toilets that change lives

Growing up in a small village in remote Cambodia, Lima always wanted to be a teacher.

But, for a long time, school was the last place the 13-year-old wanted to be.

His classroom was filled with the putrid smell coming from nearby fields where Lima and his 200 schoolmates were forced to go to the toilet.

“Some students drop out of school as there is no place to defecate, so they don’t want to come to school,” Lima says.

“Before we had toilets, students would go the field, or along the school fence, making the school smell very bad. I didn’t want to come to school especially on labor day (a weekly day which, as part of the Cambodian curriculum, is dedicated to students cleaning the school) as it’s very dirty.”

For millions of children like Lima, the simple toilet can mean education and opportunity, by ensuring children don’t drop out too early. For girls and young women, this is particularly important.

In addition, without effective sanitation, communities become breeding grounds for disease, which disproportionately affects children.

Lima (centre) and his friends are happy with their new facilities

The village chief in Lima’s community says 30% of children drop out of primary school, with many citing poor health as a key reason.

As part ChildFund’s long-term commitment in Cambodia, it has supported many initiatives that are giving hard-to-reach, remote communities effective sanitation solutions that will help stop the spread of disease. Our objective is to ensure schools are safe places where children can thrive.

Lima’s school now has four new toilet blocks and a handwashing station to promote hygiene and keep students healthy.

“I am so happy to have these new bathrooms and new hand washing station,” Lima says. “I am happy to come to school every day and commit to clean and maintain the new latrine keeping it last longer.”

ChildFund’s water and sanitation programs have also helped to generate new income-earning opportunities for youth in a neighbouring community where only one quarter of the households had working sanitation.

Den (left), 19, and Sophik, 17, were looking for work before they ChildFund provided them with toilet construction training

Den, 19, is one of the young people ChildFund trained so he could construct low-cost concrete toilets, which offer a long-term solution to people’s plumbing problems.

“We learned how to make concrete drain pipes, latrine and how to tile the floor,” Den says. “ChildFund also provided the necessary equipment and a motorcycle to carry the final product from the construction site to the customer’s house. For one family, we installed three concrete drainpipes, which can be used from 15 to 20 years.”

The project has received a lot of support from locals, who see it as an opportunity to tackle two major problems: sanitation and youth unemployment.

“It’s a very good initiative because it helps young people get jobs so they can stay out of trouble and do something that helps the community,” says an elderly woman who was Den’s first customer.

“I will have one built at my son’s house near here. They have only just started, but their work is very acceptable. Later, they will become professionals.”

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