Trailblazer has been fortunate to enlist a volunteer, Los Vannak “Anak”, to help us collect testimonials and stories from Trailblazer village beneficiaries. Co-Founders Chris Coats and Scott Coats first met Anak when she was just a young girl living in Sras village - the first village Trailblazer began its work in 2005. In her words, “At that time I was in grade 2, but I remember the Trailblazer team went to my house to have lunch under the mango trees behind my small house. Trailblazer supported building two schools in my village so the students can go to school. Besides building a school in my village, they supported more people to learn sewing, beauty salon, agriculture, well, filter, and the village fund so people who struggled can get a loan. The people in my village started from the beginning of their life in that area, I mean they started to think about life, how to feed their kids, how to keep them in school. And all of them really know Chris and Scott well. I used to volunteer with a villager survey in my village since 2012. For myself, I saw this happen, the people changed their lifestyle with help from Trailblazer. In my brain I wanted to work for an NGO to support kids in school. Now I reached it by working with PLF and I am happy to volunteer for Trailblazer. And my goal is to help more adults from my village as I can.”
We are very happy to have her helping us on this project.
In 2015, Trailblazer Foundation and Trailblazer Angkor delivered Bio-sand Water Filters along with Hygiene Introduction Training in Prohut village, Lvea commune, Pouk district, Siem Reap province. The project started with making introductions to the people in this village, family by family, and in group meetings regarding the benefits of the Bio-sand Water Filter and Water Pump Well. More villagers became interested and made their request to the village chief for a filter. The village chief registered their names on the needs list and presented the list to Trailblazer.
In this picture, Mr. Hoy  and Mrs. Hann  live in Prohut village, Lvea commune, Pouk district. They have one daughter studying in Prohut Kindergarten, and a grandmother living with the family. This family received a Trailblazer Bio-sand Water Filter in 2015. This family has one walking tractor, two motorbikes, one bicycle, five cows, 15 ducks, and 10 chickens. Mr. Hoy said, “Before we received the water filter we had problems getting clean water to drink and cook with. We used water directly from the well without proper disinfection, which made us sick a lot, specially with diarrhea. Because of this problem, it had an impact on our family’s economy, especially the loss of time to earn a living.” Hoy continued, “after attended the Clean Water and Hygiene Training from Trailblazer, and receiving a bio-sand water filter to use, we recognized that our health situation improved. We were less sick and did not have diarrhea. And we had no more problem with getting clean, safe water.
He added, “Now we are able to have a more wonderful time. We have cut down the cost of treating our illnesses, and can save money for our family to invest in other interests. My mother is healthy and has more time to attend religious festivals in the pagoda with other village elders. Lastly, I am very happy to have Trailblazer working in my community and providing us access to clean water, and giving us knowledge about hygiene and sanitation. Me and my neighbors in the communtiy have enough clean water to use and we are healthier.”
The story of a little girl name Vorn Salong, 13 years old living in Dong Pa Av village Pongro Krom commune Chikreng district Siem Reap Province. She is studying in grade 5 in Ta Por primary school in Tapor village Pongro Krom commune. Before she gets the bike from TF, She needs to travel 6km with her parent by bicycle to school, but often she misses the class when her parent are busy with their work. Some day her friend comes to take her to school but had problem when coming back from school because her friend’s class finished before her.
Mr. Vorn Leng and Mrs. Choun Leab, Salong’s parents said: their family is very poor. They had 4 children and Salong is the oldest daughter. They had small house and small rice field located far from the village. They had one old bike and they use it to go to the rice field and taking care of the cows in the field outside the village.
Usually Mr. Leng takes Salong to school before he goes to field but not every day. So Salong missed her class often, sometimes her friends come to take her to school but he had to take her back from school later in the evening.
On the 7 May 2018 Salong and her parents had been told that she will get one bike from an organization in Siem Reap. Salong and her family are so happy. The teacher asked them to come to Tapor primary school on 08 May 2018 to get the bike.
After receiving a bike from The Trailblazer Foundation, Salong uses the bike to come to school every day. Mr. Leng has more times to take care his cows and the rice field because he doesn’t needs to take Salong to and back from school. The family is happy.
Every Sunday Salong take the bike to go help her parent at the field and taking her younger brother with. They watch the cows.
Mr. Leng and Mrs. Leab promises to do whatever its take to see Salong finishes school and get good job. Mr. Leng and Mrs. Leab thanks Trailblazer Foundation so much for giving Salong the bike.
Today Salong gets the bike to take her friend to school as her friend’s bike is broken. She is happy and she loves to go to school.
In 2014, Trailblazer Foundation and Trailblazer Angkor delivered Bio-sand Water Filters, along with Hygiene Introduction Training into Chrey Kharng Cherng village Kean Sangkae commune, Soutr Nikum district, Siem Reap province. The project started with making an introduction to the people in this village, family by family, and in group meetings regarding the benefits of the Bio-sand Water Filter and Water Pump Well. More villagers became interested and made their request to the village chief for a filter. The village chief registered their names on the needs list, and presented the list to Trailblazer.
Mrs. Khut , a widow, lives in Chrey Kharng Cherng village with two sons and one daughter. She received a Bio-sand Water Filter from the Trailblazer Foundation Project in 2014, as well as her neighbors in this community. Mrs. Khut has two motorbikes, 30 ducks, and 20 chickens.
Mrs. Khut said, “Before receiving the Bio-sand filter from Trailblazer we did not have access to clean water. We had difficulty drinking the water directly from the pump well because it had a very bad smell and the color was red. I was getting sick often, especially with diarrhea, my children did too. We had to use our Saving Fund money to buy medicine and pay for the doctor. When my children were sick, they could not go to school or help me with my business. We lost time and money due to our poor health because we did not have clean water to drink and cook with.”
She continued, “After receiving the bio-sand water filter from Trailblazer and the donor, we use it. The water quality is very good, the taste is better, and we do not have diarrhea anymore because of unsafe water. We have more knowledge about what is Clean Water and what Body Hygiene is after attending the Bio-sand Water Filter and Hygiene Introduction Training from Trailblazer. I have a good time, reduced costs in spending money on medicine and the doctor, and can save that money to invest in my business. My children have good health, they spend more time at school, and when they are home from school they can help me.”
“Lastly, I am very happy to have had Trailblazer Foundation and Trailblazer Angkor organizations come to my village and give us access to clean water, and train us on the knowledge of body hygiene and sanitation. We are healthier and happier thank you.”
Mrs. Rihampol lives with her husband and child, a five-year-old boy, in extremely poor conditions in a village an hour north of Siem Reap. Even by rural Siem Reap standards, this is a deprived area of the country.
Our Board member, Justine Auton and Mr. Sor Ratanak, our Field Director for Trailblazer Angkor, stopped in to have a chat with Mrs. Rihampol after seeing a Trailblazer biofilter next to her house. Mrs. Rihampol shyly agreed to talk to Justine.
Mrs. Rihampol is young, maybe 20, and her life experiences have been exclusively in this village. She was born here, did some schooling here and married here. She lives much the same life, in the same state of poverty, that her own mother did.
In 2016 Laura and Conor Nelson, supporters of Trailblazer from Minnesota, USA, donated a biofilter and their filter ended up with this family. The filter stands in pride of place next to water pump and it is very well cared for.
Justine asked Mrs. Rihampol about the filter, which is shared with a neighbor.
“The water tastes good!” was the much-repeated response. “The water from the pump tastes bad, but after it goes through the filter it tastes so good. Even if the water I put into it is very dirty, it comes out clean.”
Justine asked about the impact the filter had had on the family.
“One month after we started drinking the clean water my little boy stopped being sick and we all stopped having diarrhea. We don’t have a latrine. It was very bad before…. being like that. We use the water for drinking and for cooking.”
How had the family come to have a filter?
“We had got the water pump before and had heard of filters. We asked the Chief to get one. We paid US$3 which took us two weeks to save up.”
Justine asked Mrs. Rihampol what the most important thing was about the filter.
“It tastes so good! I’ve had water from other filters but this one is the best!”
Pictured above is the family home and Mrs. Rihampol proudly showing her filter to Justine.
Mr. and Mrs. Van Sor and their three children live in a village about an hour outside of Siem Reap. They are farmers and have two hectares of land a little way from their village and have been growing rice and vegetables on it for many years.
The Van Sor family were one of 25 farming families in this area to be part of the agricultural education programme run by Trailblazer.
Our new Board member, Justine Auton, met the family and talked about the impact of the programme with Mr. Yang Chanto, Trailblazers Food Security Manager.
Chanto began by explaining that the first step when working with farmers new to the programme is to assess their land to determine which crops will grow and how best to improve the soil.
The second step is to engage with the local market to find out the crops, and in what amounts and of what quality, are most desirable. The link between the farmer as the producer and the market as the buyer was critical for the economic development of individual farming families Chanto emphasized.
Chanto described that the programmes success relied on working alongside farmers intensely for a year, teaching them how to maximise their yield of quality produce and nurture their land so they could grow more over time. The ongoing assessment, advice and recommendations tailored to each farmer over the first year was followed up with periodic checking-in and practical advice in the second year. The Van Sor family have completed the programme and have experienced real benefits from having gone through the programme.
Mrs. Van Sor told Justine about the impact on her family.
“Our lives are easier, less stressful.” She said. “We now grow better rice and vegetables. We have vegetables to take to the market all year round now. It used to be just one crop.”
Chanto explained that the family’s income had increased about 150% through the changes they had made and there was potential to increase that even more. The family had also diversified and were raising cows to sell for beef. The big shift was that the family had gone from growing food just to feed themselves to being focused on the business of making a sustainable income from supplying the local market.
The family are experiencing the added benefits of having had a well installed by Trailblazer five months ago. The water means they can now manage easily through the dry season with the water being used on the crops, the cows and for the family.
“Our lives are changed,” Mrs. Van Sor told Justine. “Before, we just had a little money and now we have a lot more. We work a lot more and it is good for my husband and our children.”
The Van Sor family is planning ahead and looking to secure a water filter from Trailblazer and buy some adjacent land, so they can increase their production. Participation in the programme has well and truly paid off for the Van Sor family.