Joshua Lange

Windows of the Soul and Door to a Bright Future

It is often said that “eyes are the windows of the soul.” Not only that; they are also a gateway for education and deeper understanding. 

During late November and December 2021, to serve students at Heshangzhuang and Zengyi Primary Schools in Yunnan province, CWEF partnered with staff from the local nonprofits Education in Sight and the Zhengxin Social Work Service Center in Wuding county to provide vision screening and to teach children about the importance of eye care.

The eye care activities for 134 students at these two primary schools in Wuding County are just one small piece of a broader, comprehensive program the schools have partnered with CWEF to facilitate, which is called HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”).

HEAL addresses the need for proper health-related equipment and resources, along with the deeper knowledge and behavior change needed for students to lead a full, healthy life.

Eye health is a key – and sometimes missing – piece, as one student noted:

“It was the first time we tested our eyesight, and we realized that eyes are so important. The world is blurry if you don’t see well. If you are nearsighted, you should wear glasses with the correct prescription. We should develop good habits and do eye exercises carefully.”

Eye screening with Mr. Yin of Education in Sight

Mr. Yin, the trainer from Education in Sight, reflected:

“The students were very curious to learn that the proportion of myopia among rural children is much lower than their peers in the cities.”

The recent global increase in myopia (or nearsightedness)is attributed to the increased use of electronics and screen time in young children. In addition to the training, books about proper eye care were given to the students, and all the students were screened for myopia.

Myopia can be most easily corrected by eyeglasses. Of the students tested, around 7% were found to have myopia. Most of these students were given free glasses available directly from Education in Sight, and the others were advised to go to the hospital for further screening.

Understanding proper eye care methods and providing glasses is important because without this intervention, more children are vulnerable to developing myopia or other eye issues. Working to prevent and treat eye issues like myopia can help the students in their general health and school education. The teachers at the Heshangzhuang and Zengyi schools reported that the screenings and health education activities were very meaningful, and will further give them the opportunity to follow up with ongoing health education related to eye care and their students’ overall health.

CWEF, together with our local partners, would not be able to facilitate the HEAL program or provide this free eye health education, eye tests, or glasses for these students from underserved communities without generous supporters like you.

Thank you for your generous donations. You are making a clear difference in these children’s lives and giving them the chance to see a bright future.

No Longer “Underwater” (Thanks to Clean Water)

Maiy was stressed and worried. His family was “underwater.”

As a new husband to his wife Chantou and adoptive father to her two sons, Maiy was feeling the weight of the family’s debt. They had taken out a microfinance loan to buy equipment for their family’s small farming operation, but now Maiy couldn’t even stay healthy enough to keep working every day in the fields in order to pay down the debt.

He and the rest of the family would frequently fall ill with diarrhea and painful stomach aches. At the time, they didn’t know the cause of their sickness: their daily habit of drinking the rainwater that they collected at their home in rural Tboung Khmum province, Cambodia.

With their frequent waterborne illness, the family’s medical expenses piled on top of their other daily expenses, which piled on top of their debt. Maiy couldn’t see a way out.

Then, through a connection with their local Christan church, Maiy and Chantou learned about a BioSand Water Filter project in their community, made possible by your generous gifts to CWEF.

They learned more about the water filters from their pastor, and they attended a training session where they learned about the dangers of drinking unsafe water, as well as different ways they could protect themselves and their kids.

Maiy and Chantou participate in HEAL training

Finally, they received the gift of a BioSand Water Filter in 2021. Since then, they have had the great blessing of drinking clean and safe water every day.

Maiy recently shared:

“Now, I feel relaxed and happy after getting our Biosand Water Filter from CWEF. We can filter either rainwater or well water for our family’s daily drinking needs. I also regularly bottle the water from the filter and take it with me to the fields when I go out to work.”

Maiy, Chantou, and their boys don’t get sick as often as they did before, and now Maiy has plenty of time and energy to do his farming work each day. He estimates that they will have the microfinance loan debt paid off in just 7 more months.

As a committed Christian and a member of their local church, Maiy and Chantou have also been led to participate as trained local advocates in the broader community health and development program called HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”), which is sponsored by CWEF and facilitated in partnership with the local pastor, Sareun, and his wife, Ly. The team of HEAL advocates in their community have participated in a series of in-depth training sessions, and are committed to being agents of positive change in their area.  

Maiy and his family now want to do what they can to bless and serve others in their community, as they themselves have been blessed through the local church, in partnership with CWEF.

Maiy closed our conversation with this simple and selfless note of gratitude and hope:

“My family members all got healthier now, and I hope to see that God will use my family in the future to share the Gospel with others.”

Struggle, Sacrifice, and Opportunity for Srey Nith

Srey Nith knows all about hard work and sacrifice. She has seen her parents model these things, giving their best to create better opportunities for their three daughters.

Srey Nith also knows about struggle and failure, as her parents took out loans to finance their small rice farming operation, only to experience disappointment and defeat when things did not work out as planned.

Because of the resulting financial struggle, her parents made the difficult decision to send their daughters to live in a Christian church dormitory in their home province of Prey Veng, while the parents left to go find work in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, which is 3-4 hours by car to the northwest from their home.

Srey Nith at her family home in Prey Veng

Even though she went through her high school years as a so-called “left-behind” child without her parents by her side, Srey Nith has grown into a very responsible and capable student. She ranked number 8 of 60 total students in Grade 12, and the pastor at her local church described her as a diligent student and a faithful helper in their church community. She learned discipline and helped to teach the younger children at the dorm.

During this time, Srey Nith worried about what would happen after high school graduation. She was very capable and motivated to continue her education in university, but as she considered her family’s situation, she realized her parents would not be able to support her at all. Every month, they needed to spend carefully so they could save enough to pay back the loan payments to the bank.

Srey Nith’s commitment was strong, though. She told herself that no matter what happened, she would move to the city to enroll in university, and even if she had to go without food or a place to sleep, she would be ready to tolerate anything to make her dream happen. At the same time, she shared all these burdens with her brothers and sisters at church, and they prayed with Srey Nith about God’s plans for her future.

Visiting her mom’s rented room in Phnom Penh

By God’s grace, Srey Nith learned about the opportunity to apply for support through the CWEF University Scholarship program, which is made possible by your generous prayers and gifts. She applied for a scholarship and was accepted. In 2021, SreyNith completed her second year of classes in the Business Management degree program at her university in Phnom Penh.

Srey Nith shares:

“To see my parents living in poverty always strengthens my commitment to find a way to pay them back and do everything I can to help them when they are getting older. But I do not want to end up working in a garment factory like my mom. My dream is to hold a pen and not a needle. I want to become a businesswoman in the future.”

Srey Nith, with fellow CWEF University Scholars

When she came to Phnom Penh for university, Srey Nith decided to once again live in a Christian dorm. She wants to stay close to God, do what she can to serve the church, and have a good environment for studying. Through the challenges of the COVID pandemic, including outbreaks in Cambodia and mostly online university classes throughout 2021, she has studied hard and has kept herself busy – reading more books and doing additional research for her assignments.

With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF

On behalf of the entire CWEF team, thank you! It is our privilege and joy to partner with you to create opportunities for students like Srey Nith. Her hope is strong and her future is bright, thanks to you!

HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY PLANET

Students at Anla and Heshangzhuang Primary School in rural Yunnan province ended the previous school year and started the new school year strong and healthy. Students at both schools participated in TOT (“Training of Trainers”) activities as part of the ongoing HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”) program facilitated by the CWEF team and our local partners. These student health advocates will go on to serve others in their families and school communities by sharing the knowledge and healthy habits they have learned through this series of HEAL training activities over the span of 1-2 years.    

Before their schools broke for the holiday, in June 2021 students at Anla and Heshangzhuang learned knowledge and practiced healthy behaviors related to personal hygiene, COVID-19 prevention, healthy diet, eye care, disaster preparedness, and basic first aid training.

These HEAL Training of Trainer sessions were delivered as a collaborative effort — trainers from CWEF along with several partner organizations, including eye care and vision-focused non-profit Education in Sight, Zhengxin Social Work Service Center of Wuding county, and the Yunnan Mountain Eagle Rescue Service Center. Working in concert, our organizations can achieve more, and the training we provide to the students is more effective and has a stronger impact. 

Of equal importance is the varied mode of training that is used during these sessions. Our trainers use games, songs, videos, demonstrations, simulations, and other practical exercises to engage different parts of the students’ bodies, brains, and emotions, so that the knowledge and habits learned will have a better chance of sticking with them, and later, spreading to others in their community.

Jenny Chu of CWEF shares: 

“This way of combining theory with practice makes students learn more intuitively. We are helping them to enhance their awareness first, and then to support their knowledge with action.”

Most recently, in September 2021, students at Heshangzhuang Primary School participated in the third session of their HEAL student health advocate training. After learning to take care of their own health and that of their family and friends, they were introduced to the concept of caring for the health of the planet. The training facilitators framed this sometimes complex topic in more simple terms that connected students back to health concerns they are familiar with:

“The Earth has a fever. How can we help the Earth to be healthy?”

Phanna’s Perseverance

In 1980, a young man in Cambodia stepped on a landmine laid by Khmer Rouge soldiers while clearing land for farming. He survived but faced many hardships as a disabled farmer. He married and had four children, one of whom was a boy named Phanna. The family worked hard for a low income, but then sadly faced a terrible tragedy when Phanna’s mother passed away in 2010 from chronic heart disease.

Phanna’s father was not able to care for all four children on his own, so he made the difficult decision in 2011 to bring them to a nonprofit center called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO), where their physical and emotional needs could be met. With this extra support, Phanna was able to develop his natural gifts. He grew into an exceptionally bright and diligent student, and he was a disciplined and helpful member of the CRO community. His English also improved rapidly through his own study and as he practiced with teams of students from other countries who came to visit and serve at CRO.

Phanna continued to work hard throughout high school and eventually graduated in 2017, earning a Grade A on the national exam – a very prestigious accomplishment in Cambodia. That year, nearly 100,000 students took the national exam, and Phanna was one of only 424 students in the entire country who earned an A!

Because of his excellent academic record, Phanna was awarded scholarships from two universities in Cambodia, but they only covered his tuition costs. Because of CRO’s relationship with CWEF, Phanna also learned about the CWEF University Scholarship program. He applied and was approved for additional support from CWEF for not only his living costs, but also for his continued spiritual, mental, and emotional development through regular encouragement and training opportunities with the CWEF team in Cambodia. Your generous support of CWEF made it possible for Phanna to realize his dream of studying International Relations at the University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, the capital city.

Phanna-with-fellow-scholars
Phanna with fellow CWEF Scholarship students in Phnom Penh;

But Phanna’s dreams and determination didn’t stop there.

During his first year in Phnom Penh, he began researching scholarships for study abroad programs and started preparing himself to be a strong candidate. The CWEF team encouraged him to apply for scholarship programs that interested him – even if he failed, it would be a great learning experience for him. In the end, Phanna was awarded a 4-year scholarship to study Social Policy and Development at Thammasat University, a prestigious institution in Bangkok, Thailand.

Headed-to-Thailand
At the airport, leaving Cambodia for Thammasat University in Thailand
With-fellow-students-in-Thailand
With fellow students at Thammasat University

CWEF is thrilled to be able to continue supporting Phanna with scholarship support for living costs, and the CWEF Cambodia team continues to help him with anything he needs, giving him confidence and encouragement to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Phanna recently shared with us that he has never feared living alone in Thailand because he knows that there are people from CWEF who are always there to love, care, support, and pray for him.

Phanna

Phanna will soon enter his third year at Thammasat University, and it should come as no surprise that he continues to excel. In his most recent semester, he earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. Not only that, Phanna joined a volunteer program at the university that is working to facilitate projects designed to help children in rural communities in Thailand.

In the future, Phanna wants to be a Governance and Policy Specialist and hopes to bring a positive impact to the society in his home country of Cambodia. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for the next season of Phanna’s education and adult life.

Because of your faithful prayers and generosity, Phanna is able to confidently share:

“In the future, I will be able to play a critical role to improve people’s living conditions in my country.”

by Panhary Port Puth (Cambodia Education Programs Director), with Joshua Lange (CWEF Executive Director)

Support Future Leaders Like Phanna

 

A Grateful Heart in the Midst of a Tragic Year

written by Elena Semler, CWEF volunteer

Xuemei, a high school senior in Yunnan Province, has dealt with many hardships and feelings of helplessness during the past year due to COVID-19: 

“At the beginning of the school year, I failed to go to school for the first time. I had to stay at home and attend on-line classes… The price of everything was increasing, but the income of my family was decreasing. Living expenses became more expensive, and our debts were getting heavier and heavier.”

Like many around the world this year, Xuemei and her family struggled with increased living expenses and growing debts. It was then, in a time when she needed some hope, that Xuemei found it in the support she received because of your gifts.

“With your support, I didn’t feel so helpless. I felt warmth and saw light ahead of me.”


Xuemei with her classmates

Xuemei is a recipient of a CWEF High School Scholarship, which covers all school-related costs and provides student development support in crucial areas such as setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, teamwork, and more.

Although Xuemei’s family has struggled financially due to the pandemic, their decreasing income did not put an end to her education, thanks to your generosity. Once it was safe for the students to return to school, Xuemei was able to return as well. She is happy to share: “Now we are lucky to be able to go back to school again.”

Because of your generosity, Xuemei has not only been comforted amid a challenging time, but she has also received tangible help that, in her own words: “let me move forward and get closer to my dream.” With her renewed sense of hope for the future, Xuemei remains faithful to her goals and aspirations, “I will study hard and try my best to go to university.”

Xuemei and her family have lived a difficult life in rural Yunnan even before the pandemic. However, it is these difficulties that have given her a perspective that we should all aspire to have. In a letter to her scholarship sponsor, she writes, “Though I have never met you or seen you, I will still have a grateful heart.”

CWEF scholarships educate and equip bright young women like Xuemei to live a life of leadership and service. People like you make it possible for people like Xuemei, even after a global pandemic and a devastating year for her family, to have hope for the future.

YINLU’S ANGEL

Written by Elena Semler – CWEF Volunteer

You are an angel in my heart,” Yinlu writes to her high school scholarship sponsor of 3 years.

She is from a village in northeast Yunnan province and is a recipient of a CWEF scholarship, which provides financial assistance so she can attend high school. Hardships in life have given Yinlu an extra sense of purpose.“I am more mature than my peers. I think knowledge can change my fate. I studied even harder to enrich myself with learning and more knowledge. I want to be more excellent and capable.”

Yinlu has had to endure more than most people will ever experience, in a short amount of time.“My mother left us when I was 3. She could not bear the poverty” Her father, now burdened with a larger financial load, took a job at a coal mine. Her grandmother passed away not long after. Then, it was only a mere two months after her father buried her grandmother that,“he [my father]also left us forever”,when he died in an accident at work.

With more and more tragedies piling onto Yinlu’s family, her grandfather, heartbroken, took in his two granddaughters, Yinlu and her younger sister. Her grandfather would travel to many places to find work in order to provide for the three of them, but it did not matter how far he went or how late it was, he always came home to them.

As Yinlu’s grandfather, now 74 years old, deals with the difficulties of old age and still tries to help out around the house, Yinlu was sent to a welfare home for a period of time. Although difficult, she acknowledges that she learned a lot from that challenging time. Yinlu reflects:

“I believe that God is fair to everyone. He closes a door for you and will open a window for you. He gave me a poor and seemingly unfortunate life, but He also let me recognize the reality [of life] ahead of time.”

Yinlu understands the power of knowledge and has asserted that she will use her education for good and that she “will try to help others and become a person who is useful to society.

Your gifts to the CWEF High School Scholarship program provide bright young women like Yinlu scholarships and support, preparing them for a life of leadership and service to their families and communities. Additionally, student development programs equip students for life after school, including crucial skills such as: setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, working in teams, and more.

Thank you for being an angel to Yinlu and many more like her!


BUILDING HEALTHY LIVES IN RURAL YUNNAN

The children were amazed to see the purple glow that emerged from on their classmate’s hands under the black-light. The idea of invisible bacteria and contaminants is difficult for anyone to understand. As part of CWEF’s health education curriculum, students participate in a simulation activity in which they see the transfer of ‘bacteria’ from hand to hand contact. The ‘bacteria’ is a transparent powder that is easily spread through contact. The transmission path can be seen when a black-light exposes the invisible fluorescent powder.

In December 2019, CWEF Health Director Jenny Chu led 30 children from two primary schools in Wuding county in rural Yunnan province through a two-day health education “Training of Trainers” session as a part of the HEAL (Health Education Advocacy & Literacy) program. These students will serve as health advocates—providing instruction and modeling to their peers in the areas of good hygiene and health promotion. 

The World Health Organization promotes proper handwashing to prevent illness and reduce the spread of disease. Once rural areas have access to reliable and safe drinking water, additional health and hygiene practices need to be introduced. Through HEAL training, children learn how to thoroughly wash their hands and gain knowledge about bacteria and contaminant transmission. Through reference books, hands-on training, the germ-glow black-light simulation, and a handwashing song, student health advocates learn knowledge and practice good habits. They are also equipped to teach their peers about the importance of handwashing and serve as models for this healthy habit.

In addition to handwashing, the program addresses oral hygiene and proper teeth brushing techniques, healthy diet and nutrition, and importance of keeping a sanitary environment. The training provides children with critical information for healthy living and opportunities for the health advocates to engage with their peers by sharing the information and leading activities. CWEF gathers baseline information regarding the knowledge and personal hygiene practices of the students in order to provide supplemental training and information.

Clean Water with Clear Impact for Chanthy

Chanthy, 38, raises her two children with her husband who is a farmer in Samrith village in Kompong Thom province. Their day begins early, with her husband going to fish with a hand-held net around 5 AM. On a good day, he will catch several big fish, which he can sell at the market. Smaller fish are cooked for the family’s meal along with rice and vegetables that they grow for themselves. Chanthy tends to the chickens, ducks, and vegetable farming while their children are at school. 

While their diet was well-balanced, the family often suffered from a variety of illnesses like abdominal pain and headaches. “My husband had typhoid and my children were weak from diarrhea,” shared Chanthy. Since other families in her village suffered similar sicknesses, she considered it normal and didn’t wonder about the root cause of their health problems.

“One day, the village chief come to invite me to join health training from CWEF. I already heard about this organization a few years ago, and that they provide bio-sand filters to families in our area. So, I went to listen to the training. I increased my knowledge of health issues, especially the negative effects of unclean water. After finishing the training, I really wanted to get the bio-sand filter soon because it`s very beneficial for my family.”



In 2019, Chanthy received a bio-sand filter from CWEF. She and her family immediately noticed the improvement to the quality of their water. The water was more transparent and the family’s food tasted better. “Nowadays, I don’t need much time for boiling water for my family, and they can drink whenever they want to.”

The bio-sand filter has positively impacted Chanthy’s family in measurable ways. “Our family is not rich, but at least we don’t get sick often like before. I have been saving some money with my husband to expand our animal raising. Right now, we have 30 ducks and 20 chickens, both big and small together.”

She concludes, “Thank you so much to CWEF for bio-sand filter projects that come to help my community and make us more aware about health and provide us with safe water!”


Project Success Leads to New Work in Tboung Khmum

Since 2011, CWEF has collaborated with local churches and government partners in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province to improve health through holistic development projects. A pillar of CWEF’s work in Kampong Thom has been the Biosand Water Filter project supported by your generous gifts, which have provided local families with convenient access to clean and safe water in their homes, reducing the impact of water-borne illnesses. Additional work in this area over the past decade has included an Animal Gift project, which has provided sustainable income for 44 low-income families, along with eight new water wells in four villages.

“When a family receives a Biosand Filter, they also participate in health education training related to safe drinking water, how to use the Biosand Filter, and instructions related to installation and maintenance,” shares Kanhchana Thoy, CWEF Cambodia Health Programs Director. CWEF works in partnership with local pastors and village leaders throughout the length of the project, providing these remote communities with life-changing health provisions.

In total, 310 Biosand Water Filters have impacted a total of 2320 people in the Sandan and Chheu Tile communes, serving both families and primary schools. From time to time, the filters need to be renewed and repaired, and this project also restores broken Biosand Filters as needed. We are thankful to share that because your generous gifts, the most acute needs of this remote area have been provided for.


CWEF’s Kanhchana Thoy expresses our gratitude to Pastor Koy Thea in Kampong Thom
Visiting families with Pastor Sareun in Tboung Khmum

Now, our CWEF team in Cambodia is shifting its focus to a new area, again working closely with local church and village leaders. Tboung Khmum province is the location for a newly launched HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy and Literacy”) project, which includes holistic health education and infrastructure like water wells and Biosand Water Filters.

This community development work will help the “large population of older women, who are taking care of their grandchildren and receiving remittances from their adult children (especially daughters) working in urban areas,” shares Kanhchana. In this area, the average income is between $3 and $4 a day. The health education program, coupled with reliable water wells and Biosand Water Filters, will help “communities live better lives by reducing sickness.”



CWEF anticipates a process of 3-5 years to implement a holistic approach as we equip local health advocates and local families in Tboung Khmum with training and infrastructure.

“This project will have a sustainable impact on many families in Tboung Khmum as we equip them with new knowledge and skills they can use to develop their own communities,” shares Kahnchana.

Thank you! Your support continues to help bring a life-changing renewal of health and hope to families in rural Cambodia.

Scroll to Top