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Sen Sok Water Campaign.  Bringing clean water to 9,000 people though partnership with Rotary District 5300.

November 2012 marked the start of the Sen Sok Water Campaign, in which Community First Initiatives began to drill deep water wells into the 16 villages that form the larger conglomeration of Sen Sok in northwestern Cambodia. When the project was completed a year later in November 2013, the villagers of Sen Sok had access for the first time to a clean, healthy and sustainable source of water.

A large part of the success of the campaign can be attributed the Rotary Club of District 5300 in Pasadena, California. The 200 plus members of Pasadena’s Rotary Club pulled together during an annual Gala at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena to successfully raise $25000 for the drilling of 16of wells, one for each village. Upon completion of the project, Sen Sok and its population of nearly 10,000 villagers are served by the new wells.

Community First - Hand Cranked Water Well

Each well is able to support villagers for many years to come, particularly because of the care that went into the preparation of the drilling. Instead of blindly choosing drilling locations, Pierre and the rest of the team at Community First consulted with both the locally-hired drilling contractor as well as the villagers to decide upon the locations containing the best quality supplies of water. Villagers contributed land and well as any construction materials they could provide and the drilling contractor did the rest. To read more about the details of the wells, click here:

The impact on Sen Sok and the lives of the people living there cannot be understated. The transition from water sourced from hand-dug pits like the one seen in the picture below, to the well water immediately reduced the number of diseases. Without having to walk many kilometers to source water, villagers can now focus more time on maintaining their rice fields and other crops.

Community First - Hand Dug Water Pit 1

With the company of Rotarian John Whaley, who is also Chairman of the Board of Community First, we returned to Sen Sok in July of 2014 to get an update. The details of our return trip can be found in an upcoming blog post.

We cannot thank the Pasadena Rotarians enough for their support, and we are excited to continue to work together to impact the lives Cambodian villagers in life-changing ways.

The five-part documentary series on the Sen Sok village can be viewed here:


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“When the well is dry, we know the Worth of Water”
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanach, 1746

Contractors drilling a location, Smach

Community First’s exciting new water well program is thriving. The 16 villages of the Sen Sok commune don’t have access to clean water. The people have to get it from remote open air wells, or from rain water collected from rooftops. Access to clean water is a critical issue for developing countries because of water-borne diseases and of the extensive labor required. In the Sen Sok commune, Community First has made a difference by working with a small Cambodian contractor to bring water to the first two villages of the commune. With each project, one village at a time, we see how access to clean water is changing the lives of the people. In the Sen Sok Commune we have to drill as deep as 50 meters (over 160 feet) to reach a reliable water table. In contrast, some other areas of the Siem Reap Province such as Angkor Thom, where the Angkor Temples are found, the water table is only a few meters deep.

This unfortunate geographic feature of Sen Sok Commune has called for some innovative thinking and additional resources. We had to drill deeper and install heavy duty pumps to bring the water to ground level.

Our water program has been designed to not only provide water, but also to make it a sustainable resource that the community can own and maintain. The community wells are built on a piece of land that was donated by a family for this purpose. To ensure the sustainability of the initiative, a Water Pump Committee takes responsibility for the well. This allows people to take pride in this new resource.

Water Pump Committee, Kok Yeang

Composed of two men and two women, the Water Pump Committee is in charge of (1) ensuring the maintenance and the occasional repairs and (2) disseminating knowledge best practices on water usage and sanitation.

Because we have chosen to work in an area where water is difficult to access, we may not be able to dig a well for each community. We have therefore designed a simple system for water mobility.

A water cart is provided to each Water Pump Committee. The water cart can contain up to 220 liter (58 gallons). It makes it possible for villagers to fill up in less than a day, instead of having to carry water buckets back and forth over several days.

This clean water can be used by families for drinking and cooking. In addition, access to this essential resource will also enable families to start small scale agricultural initiatives with the help of Community First’s Agricultural Program.

Water Cart, Kok Yeang

Mr. Choy Thoeun, father of five, from Kok Yeang village, told us how grateful he was for the new well. He used to fetch all his water from a hand dug pit out in the rice paddies. It took him several hours each day to carry water back and forth with two buckets slung over his shoulders. Choy Thoeun says “Now my family no longer struggles to fetch water from long distance, as we have a water well near the house and access to a water cart. Also, for the first time in our lives, we don’t have to constantly worry about the lack of water, and the water-borne diseases are reduced. Yes, our living standard are greatly improved!

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