Joshua Lange

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.

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!


Health is Priceless

The rising costs of health care is a common concern in the West. People often take for granted the infrastructures and systems that automatically provide sanitary conditions and safe drinking water. Imagine what life is like for people, without health insurance, who are ill on a regular basis by simply drinking (unsafe) water.

Sambo and his wife, Ku, are 25-year-old farmers in the Sandan District of Kampong Thom Province in Cambodia. With a 7th grade education, Sambo makes a living by working the land on farms owned by others. But frequent diarrhea and abdominal pains not only kept Sambo from working; his chronic illness also incurred many medical bills for treatment. The whole family was ill and needed to borrow money just to cover their daily living expenses. The burden was very heavy on Sambo—how to provide for his family and pay the bills? Plus, all the while, they and their young son were struggling with poor health.

Using water from a well and collecting rainwater met their daily needs for washing clothes, cooking, and drinking. Ku believed that the rainwater was clean and was safe to use. However, the family was actually suffering from water-borne illnesses. In 2019, their lives dramatically improved after they decided to participate in a Biosand Water Filter and health training program facilitated by the local church and made possible by your generous donations to CWEF.

Sambo shares, “I regularly bottle the water from the filter and take it to the fields when I work, and I drink a lot of water before I go fishing on the river. All of my family members and I got healthier, and I hope that in the future my family’s living condition will continue to get better.”

Sambo now has enough time and energy to farm and provide for his family’s expenses. Not only are they healthy now—without abdominal pains and diarrhea—but they no longer need to spend so much money on medical treatments. Sambo and Ku can even begin to save money for their family’s future.

Here’s Sambo’s final word to you:

“Now, I am very happy after getting a Biosand Filter from Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation. Thank you for your donations to support my family’s living situation!”


Your Gifts Power Holistic Health Education

Addressing the health and sanitation needs of rural communities requires a multi-faceted approach. CWEF’s HEAL project addresses the challenge in a holistic manner — improving both the physical facilities as well as much-needed health education to empower people to prevent illness. In rural China, 24% of people still live without access to basic sanitation facilities, and 12% live without access to a reliable source of clean drinking water.

Improving infrastructure

The Heshangzuang Primary School shared water pipes from a central cistern with homes in the village. During the dry season, the water supply was insufficient. In the rainy season, the water became opaque and cloudy with sediment. CWEF’s Heath Director Jenny Chu shares, “During the school period, the normal water consumption of teachers and students was directly affected. In the period of water shortage, the water storage capacity was only enough to meet the needs of the canteen, and the daily water consumption of students and teachers for washing and toilet use was greatly affected.”

During the current Phase 1 of the HEAL project at Heshangzuang Primary School, infrastructure needs were addressed this summer. During July and August 2020, CWEF partnered with local nonprofit Zhengxin Social Work Service Center to create a separate system, made up of a of 30-cubic-meter cistern and new pipes, to provide a dedicated source of clean and reliable water for the school. Jenny Chu reports that the problem has been solved for the school and it will “ensure normal health for more than 70 students and teachers, thus laying the foundation for CWEF’s health education project for students, planned to begin in 2021.”

Creating new materials for health education

CWEF works in partnership with local government agencies and supporting partners including, schools and local non-profit organizations. Students from an international school in Shanghai recently volunteered to create new educational materials to address the need to educate about the novel coronavirus. Jenny Chu shares, “From July to August 2020, Roger Tu, a long-time friend of CWEF, recruited students to design activities and picture books related to health projects through the ‘CWEF health books’ project. Through the volunteer efforts of Zoe and Hui, we have completed the design of children’s mental health awareness and new coronavirus prevention picture books.” These activity books help primary school students gain new knowledge and have fun in a creative way.

This combination of improved facilities, awareness, and habits results in a stronger and healthier community over the long-term. CWEF works with rural communities and schools through the HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”) program, which tackles both the need for proper health-related facilities and the knowledge and behavior change needed for healthy living.


THANK YOU!


Preparing for the Gaokao and Bright Futures Beyond

Each year, graduating high school students from across China face one of the biggest challenges of their young lives: the university entrance exam known as the gaokao


Like many students around the world, education in China went online for much of the spring semester. Many rural students lack reliable internet access at their homes and have struggled to keep up with their exam preparations. To allow these students more time to prepare, the date for the gaokao was delayed one month and will now take place on July 7-8, 2020.

As the test date approaches, the pressure intensifies. Students, along with their parents and teachers, are keenly aware that their gaokao scores will be a primary determinant for the future direction of their education and career. Because of this, students prepare extensively for the two-day exam, toiling away for many months during early mornings, long nights, and weekends.

For the students you support, the sense of pressure is heightened by difficult family situations. Often, a student from a low-income rural family may be the first person in their family to take the entrance exam and have chance to go to university. Many of these students suffer heightened stress and anxiety related to the gaokao, even in a ‘normal’ year. During this unique school year, students have been hit with yet another major stressor as they prepare for the gaokao – the changes and limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.



To help relieve stress and to help students build mental and emotional resilience in the face of the gaokao and future life challenges, CWEF held a Pre-University Workshop at the end of May 2020 for the graduating students you support in Zhaotong. The purpose of the workshop was four-fold:

  1. To understand the students’ mindset and status leading up to the gaokao, and to help them make adjustments to maintain a healthy state of mind.
  2. To help relieve students’ psychological pressure and anxiety.
  3. To share helpful tips for taking the college entrance exam.
  4. To assist students one-on-one to deal with any special difficult situations they are facing.

We invited Zhonglu, a counselor and mental health researcher, to serve as the workshop facilitator. Zhonglu serves with one of CWEF’s local partners, the Zhengxin Social Work Service Center of Yunnan’s Wuding county. During one of the main group sessions, she led the students to share with the group related to the following:

  1. My dream or biggest hope for the future is…
  2. My ‘cautious wish’ is…
  3. My current status is…
  4. Currently, my happiest thing is…
  5. Currently, my saddest thing is…

In reflecting on this session, Zhonglu noted:

“Several participating students clearly showed a strong sense of loneliness and heavy stress. At the same time, many of the students shared about the joy that came from the tight emotional connection and strong sense of community they have with their fellow students on campus. Despite facing a lot of stress and anxiety, I was encouraged that the students are finding their own ways to cope. Some students choose basketball and running, and others choose to take a break to write in a journal or chat with their classmates.”

After the students had time to share and receive feedback from their peers, Zhonglu shared some tips from her own personal experience, and closed with an important message:

“Yes – the gaokao is one of the most important things during this stage of your life, but you must work hard to treat it peacefully. If you give it too much of your attention, you will easily be defeated psychologically. This exam will have a strong impact on your future, but it does not completely determine your future.”

Thank you for your gifts that have made it possible for these young women to face this key moment of their lives with courage. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they make their final preparations for the gaokao in the coming week, and afterwards as they prepare for the bright futures that lays ahead of them!


Help Educate and Equip Young Women:

Sustained Health and Hope for Sarer

Sarer was a young wife and mother when she was widowed in 1994 in rural Cambodia. Her husband died of malaria, a common malady for farmers in tropical areas. Sarer lives in a multi-generational home with her elderly mother, along with her daughter and son-in-law. She works hard to provide daily necessities for her family.


“As a widow, without a good education, I don’t have any opportunity to work in higher-paying jobs. I work as a farmer, raising chickens, and I grow some veggies,” shares Sarer. “I remember a few years ago, my mom got sick with typhoid and stomach pains, while my daughter’s health was also weak. It required so much money that I took some loans to solve these problems. I thought that sickness is a part of [normal] life … so I didn’t fight to get anything better.”

Through a CWEF Animal Gift project, Sarer’s livelihood started to improve. She received animal husbandry training and five chickens. Her brood of chickens now numbers around 80! With the money from her chicken business, Sarer purchased a rice mill machine. She sells organic rice and uses the rice bran to feed her animals.



Later, CWEF introduced health training and made biosand water filters available to Sarer’s village. “I learned more about the bad effects of using unclean water.” She discovered that the cause of many diseases that her family and neighboring villagers experienced were from unclean water, such as abdominal pain, typhoid fever, and diarrhea. Sarer was very interested in using a biosand water filter. “I thought that I need to protect myself and take care my family from now on.”

Sarer’s health improved dramatically once she received a biosand water filter in 2018. She no longer needs to search for firewood needed to boil and purify her drinking water. “I trust the biosand filter!” she shares. “I use the water for cooking, drinking, and showering. I am now healthier than in the past. I have more strength to work and take care of my family.”

CWEF’s vision is a “world of thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.” Through CWEF projects, Sarer and her family are now thriving. In her own words, she reflects:

“My life is better than five to six years ago. Thank you so much for bringing the development projects – both Animal Gift and Biosand Filter projects – to my community.”



Support Mothers Like Sarer:

 

Protection for Today, Health for Tomorrow

In May 2020, student health advocates at Zengyi primary school in Yunnan province received training in specific health knowledge and behaviors, which they have committed to pass on to their peers and to model in their daily life.


Guimei, a 10-year-old student at Zengyi, was selected to be a student health advocate because of her personal discipline, confidence, and natural leadership qualities. She and her family are from the Miao ethnic minority group, and because her home is far away Guimei lives at the school during the week. At home, her family does not have access to sanitary toilets or bathing facilities, so Guimei bathes during the week when she boards at school. It was also at school that Guimei learned crucial health and hygiene lessons through CWEF’s HEAL program.



“I learned to wash my hands frequently, wear masks, have good hygiene, and not eat junk food,” shares Guimei. “If you don’t wash your hands, you will get sick easily. If you don’t brush your teeth, you will get cavities, which will affect your appearance.”

When Guimei returned home on the weekends, she advocated for healthy habits with her parents and grandparents.

“I shared my knowledge of handwashing with my mom and dad, and grandparents. Apart from Grandma, they all think it’s very good. Grandma thinks it’s troublesome and doesn’t like this way of washing hands.”  

In addition to these topics, Guimei and other student health advocates learned how viruses are transmitted, how to avoid and treat diarrhea, and how to avoid accidental injuries such as scalding. Health advocate and trainer Ms. Cao shares, “The HEAL project is designed for the basic needs of the rural population. The personal hygiene habits of rural community and primary school students, as well as the basic conditions for maintaining these habits, are still lacking. The project starts from improving people’s awareness and solving the problems of water, hand washing, bathing, and other essential facilities, which complement each other.” 

These teachings have been foundational to additional education in the current season about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The HEAL training included instructions for proper mask wearing and prevention of this new infectious disease. Guimei shares,  

“I hope the coronavirus will end soon, so everyone can return to school. Studying at home is lonely. I feel sad when I cannot learn more knowledge.” 

Guimei’s principal, Mr. Hua, reflected, “The health project is very good, especially for improving the students’ basic health habits. There are more and more students who wash their hands with soap and hand sanitizer. During the dry season, there is a shortage of water in the reservoir. I hope that we can also solve the problem of water shortage.”  



Beyond the current health crisis, Ms. Cao affirms the HEAL program’s value over the long-term for people in rural China: “Good personal hygiene habits and behaviors are the basis for maintaining health, and should continue to be the focus. Chronic disease has been a major health problem in China, and the root of chronic disease can be traced back to childhood.”  

With their new knowledge and the formation of healthy habits, students like Guimei have a better chance for a healthy future in which they can thrive. About her own future, Guimei shared:              

“I want to be a model when I grow up. I like singing and dancing very much!”


Support Student Leaders Like Guimei:

Yongjin’s Education: Blessing and Responsibility

The aged woman looked at the infant sleeping in her arms and thought, “she’s as small as a kitten.” Yongjin was only a month old when she was abandoned by her father into her grandmother’s care. Her mother suffered from a mental disorder and was unable to care for her. Yongjin, now 16, was raised by her cherished grandmother in rural Yunnan province. “I feel sorry for my grandma, for the hardship she has been through.”

Yongjin, full of gratefulness, was awarded with a CWEF scholarship to cover her high school tuition and related costs. She reflects, “…your sponsorship allows me to continue pursuing my study without worrying about the tuition and living cost, which is a big expense for my family. Your help greatly released my family’s burden.” Yongjin’s grandmother was overjoyed when she heard the news of her educational assistance. “Your help makes me feel that I am not alone and that there are people in this world caring for us!” Yongjin shares.

Even though her life has been hard, Yongjin has persevered and is wise beyond her years. “I am not ashamed for what happened to me, in fact, these [hardships] have enabled me to gain some competencies that many people my age don’t have—cooking, seeing doctors by myself, being very independent. I’m confident and don’t think that I’m lacking anything compared to others.”

CWEF scholarships provide bright young women 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. Yongjin shares, “The scholarship is precious to me, and I will make sure to use it wisely to optimize the value. Looking at it, I feel that I can accomplish my dreams and I’m very appreciative for that. It’s a blessing, also a responsibility. It motivates and stimulates me, and also reminds me that I’m not alone. There are also others like you and my grandma supporting me.”

According to the World Bank, the education of girls is central to breaking the cycle of poverty. Your support helps students like Yongjin realize a bright future with better earning potential and increased knowledge about health and nutrition. “I’m prepared to conquer the difficulties and hindrances in my life with grit and perseverance. I hope, in the future, I’ll be able to help others like what you have done for me.” Yongjin’s bold optimism embodies CWEF’s vision of a world of thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.


Yanmaidi project complete!

by Jenny Chu, Jesus Arroyo & Josh Lange

The cistern is now complete, the pipes are laid, and each family in Yanmaidi has renewed access to reliable, clean drinking water! Because of your generous giving, our friends in rural Yunnan province have received the beautiful New Year’s gift of renewed health, hope and vitality after years of frustrations and limitations.

CWEF staff traveled to Yanmaidi on January 10 to celebrate the completion of the project with the village’s families and local government leaders.



Prior to the completion of the new water system, Yanmaidi’s drinking water had been delivered using a series of old, low-quality plastic pipes that looped around the village. These pipes were degrading and fragile. The pipes would burst during the rainy season due to an overload of water and would freeze during the winter causing similar problems. During droughts, the water system was unable to deliver water effectively, causing many residents to hike 800 meters to a nearby reservoir to collect water, several times per day. The outdated system required constant maintenance and left families with no water when things went wrong. Even when water was available, the quality of the water was not good because of contamination in the system due to constant pipe breakages.



100% of the village households made contributions to bring the project to a successful completion. Each family contributed a small amount of their own money and a considerable amount of their own physical labor to complete the project.

During her recent visit to help celebrate the project’s completion, CWEF’s Jenny Chu also facilitated a health training session focused on drinking water safety, personal hygiene, prevention of common illnesses, safe use of pesticides, and women’s health care.


Jenny Chu meets with women in Yanmaidi to discuss women’s health care

Zhang Zhenghua has resumed his role as the water system manager (in a previous story, we highlighted Zhang’s wife Yicun). Zhenghua and Yicun expressed their delight with the completed project. Zhenghua no longer worries about being woken up at midnight to fix a broken pipe. Pipe repair will no longer be a daily struggle for the Zhang family, which will give them more time to focus on their crops and other work. With his newfound time, Zhenghua hopes to be able to improve his family’s life by raising more livestock of their own.



Here are a few additional notes about the project’s ongoing maintenance, which all residents agreed upon and committed to at a recent village meeting:

  • The water system fee will increase from 5 to 10 yuan per person per year. Zhenghua’s salary will stay the same, and the additional 5 yuan per person will go to a fund to be used for maintenance and repair costs.
  • Every six months, a team of three will work together to clean the main cistern.
  • CWEF plans to conduct a comprehensive follow-up evaluation of the project at Yanmaidi in 2022, two years after the project’s completion.

Yanmaidi’s village leader, Zhang Linzhong, expressed his deep gratitude to everyone who has made this project possible. He shared that in the future they hope to improve on the water system by expanding it to reach more of their fields. He also shared his dream of installing street lights throughout the community, and in the future plans to expand sales of their organic produce to nearby cities where they will sell for a better price.

In closing, Mr. Zhang shared with us that he plans to live in Yanmaidi with his family for the rest of his life, continuing to help the village that raised him as a child to grow and thrive.



hu-family

Goodbye Broken Pipes, Hello Renewed Lives

by Jenny Chu, CWEF Yunnan Health Programs Director

When I first visited Yanmaidi village in September of 2018, it didn’t look much different from other villages in this part of Yunnan province. Most of the buildings are made of mud bricks and concrete, along with a few modern-style buildings. However, when I entered my host Mr. Hu’s house, he had a surprise for me. He picked up a wooden board from the ground to reveal a small pit underneath, and he showed me the buried water pipe under his home that had cracked due to wear and tear over time. He had dug up his floor in order to repair it. He told me this was typical throughout Yanmaidi, and that many of the families in the village had the same experience.

Mr. Hu has played a key role in the drinking water project in Yanmaidi. He sought out CWEF’s local partner in Lufeng county through his own contacts, assisted in the pre-project baseline survey, and hosted visitors from a CWEF service learning team for meals at his home in Spring 2019.

Mr. Hu is 37 years old. He was born in Yanmaidi and, together with his parents and grandfather, continues to live and work here as a farmer. The family grows wheat, corn, chili peppers, and yams. They also cultivate chestnut, walnut, and bayberry trees, as well as collecting wild mushrooms in the forest areas surrounding their village. Previously, Mr. Hu had moved away from Yanmaidi to work as a seasonal migrant laborer for two years.

In recent years, life has been getting better in Yanmaidi. A paved road was recently built all the way into the village, and cash crops are increasingly replacing traditional crops, slowly creating higher incomes for village families. In 2018, the average annual income per person was 3,500 yuan (about US$500).

One exception to the positive trends in Yanmaidi has been the village’s drinking water system. The system’s pipes have been wearing out and breaking down for years, and many families’ water frequently stops flowing, mainly due to water pipes constantly rupturing and needing repair. When the water supply gets cut off, Mr. Hu and other families need to walk about one kilometer to go collect water. Going back and forth multiple times every day to carry water consumes valuable time and energy, which they could be using to attend to their farming and other labor work. As you can imagine, the deteriorating water system has created many frustrations and limitations for the families here.

Each family in Yanmaidi is participating in the drinking water project supported by CWEF by contributing a portion of the required funds from their own meager incomes, along with the physical labor needed to dig trenches and lay all of the new pipes and cisterns that will make up the renewed system.

When the project is completed, Mr. Hu and everyone in Yanmaidi will feel a strong sense of satisfaction and ownership in their village’s drinking water system. After years of frustration and limitations, they will be grateful to say goodbye to hours of wasted time carrying water and hello to renewed health, hope and vitality.

Through the end of December, generous friends of CWEF have pledged a 100% match for all gifts up to a total of US$20,000. Give clean water to one family in Yanmaidi, and a second family will also be blessed with the beautiful gift of a reliable, convenient source of clean water!

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