The Value of Knowledge

In Cambodia, a young mother realizes that training is better than material assistance.

A typical village home in northern Cambodia. This picture was taken in the neighbouring Preah Vihear province.

Saro Seouy is a young mother living in the village of Kok Chan in the Varin District of Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. She doesn’t have an address, and if she did, you couldn’t find her home on Google Maps. Her entire village doesn’t even show up on the map.

Saro is married and has a 2-year-old daughter. She and her husband are farmers, growing rice and cassava in the tropical climate just north of the equator. The weather is warm to hot year-round, with an annual monsoon season that brings rain. Life is hard, but she and her husband are young and strong.

The remote location of her village has made it hard for Saro to access health care and education. Although she and her husband qualify for government assistance programs, they have not been able to travel to the nearest government office to acquire the identification they need to receive assistance. Even if they had this identification, there is no assistance to be found in Kok Chan.

Saro first heard of ADRA when she attended a village meeting in September of 2013. Some ADRA representatives were there to tell the village about a new project that focuses on development, hygiene, sanitation (including wells and latrines), nutrition, and agriculture. Saro was immediately interested and decided to participate in the project. Despite her lack of ID, the ADRA workers enrolled her in the program.

Before she joined her fellow villagers in the ADRA project, Saro and her family did not have good health, and often became sick. This in turn prevented them from working their meager plot of land, which, as a result, reduced the food on their table, the produce they could take to market, and the little money they had to buy necessities that they could not make or grow on their little farm.

After joining the ADRA project, Saro realized that their sickness was due to poor hygiene practices. She has since learned about hygiene, nutritious food, and the importance of having a good attitude. “Learning about these topics has helped me do things better,” says Saro.

It’s important to note that Saro has not even received any material assistance yet. No one has given her food, tools, clothing, livestock, a better home, or even medicine. Yet, the knowledge she has acquired is already helping her!

“What I have learned has already benefited me by showing me ways to better take care of my health and my family. I have realized that my attitude is also important. Now, I analyze and think about the problems I have in a group and make decisions so that one day my family will have the better life I hope for.”

One of Saro’s immediate goals is to construct a latrine near her home. A latrine not only improves hygiene, health, and overall cleanliness, but in a practical sense, simply makes life easier. Saro and her family recently used another family’s latrine to see what it was like—and they were pleasantly surprised!

Like many others in her remote village, Saro is very family-oriented. As such, she’s not keeping her newfound knowledge to herself.

“I have tried to share everything I’ve learned with my family, including my mom, my dad, and my sisters and brothers,” says Saro. “Nothing could make me happier than to have shelter, to have happiness in our family, and for my child to obtain a high school education and enjoy good health.”

“ADRA has helped me improve my health already, and build my character,” says Saro. “I would like to thank ADRA and those who support this project for sharing their time, knowledge, and funds to make this project happen in my village.”

Story by Ryan Wallace, as related by Dos Dina, field worker for ADRA.