WATER OF HOPE
Perhaps best known for the amazing Temples of Angkor Wat, but you may also have heard of it from its recent and devastating history of the Khmer Rouge as well as various internal political struggles and border disputes. Sadly the latter have caused damage that will take decades to repair and a huge percentage of Cambodians live around or well below the poverty line. Many still have no access to clean water and water borne diseases are rife, infant mortality rates, although improving, remain among the highest in the world (5% versus 0.4% in Europe) with life expectancy amongst the lowest at 64.5 years (well over 80 in Europe).
If you visit Angkor Wat now you are unlikely to see this poverty- it has been brushed discreetly aside so the tourists don’t get upset. But it’s still there and has become a cause very close to the heart of Hill Robinson’s Operations Manager, Marianne Richards. “I first came to Cambodia in 2009 and at that time you couldn’t move for street kids begging. They were beautiful, bright and kind- they didn’t deserve the cards they’d been dealt. It blew me away. I couldn’t leave without doing something.”
And so the story began and Cambodia became Marianne’s new holiday destination. Becoming close friends with her tour guide, Narong Chap, one thing led to another- 4 children sponsored through education (one now almost a Judge!), volunteer teaching and helping out at a community project plus Water of Hope- an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) set up both in Cambodia (by Narong) and France (by Marianne) to raise funds to dig wells to provide clean water for the poor living in the shadows of Ankgor Wat.
I remember standing with my mouth open. Wow, where had I come to? There were kids playing in muddy pools, men with fishing sticks…
Marianne on her first visit to Cambodia in 2009
A well costs around $350 – a very small amount in the world of yachting where this might be the price of a bottle of wine – but beyond the means of locals struggling to make ends meet on way less than $100 a month even if they work full time. A well can make a huge difference- clean water to drink, to wash in , to water the arid soil around the rudimentary house so they can grow vegetables, rice, fruit or even just to wash the rusty bicycle that might be the family’s only form of transport.