HEAL

Cultivating a Healthier Future for Mrs. Hun’s Family

by Karin Semler, CWEF Board Member

In fall 2020, CWEF staff and local partners surveyed 50 families in several villages in Tboung Khmum province to assess their health needs. A request for water wells had been received, and research was done to assess the overall health situation, as well as other needs and opportunities in the area.

Mrs. Hun, her husband and 16-year-old son are one of the families being served by CWEF’s HEAL (Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy) project, which is providing Water Wells and BioSand Water Filters in addition to HEAL community health education training, in which local health advocates are identified and trained through a series of in-depth Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions.

Mrs. Hun’s family

Many families, like that of Mrs. Hun, face a myriad of challenges. Her husband of 28 years is disabled, adding difficulty for eking out a living in the countryside. Sadly, their son has also suffered from the after-effects of meningitis, which he contracted at the age of nine. Lack of clean water compounded the health problems for Mrs. Hun and her family.

The HEAL community health training seeks to provide both a growth mindset around community needs and opportunities, and specifically a deeper awareness of healthy habits related to basic health, sanitation, and hygiene. CWEF staff must find creative ways to provide the training to ensure understanding and encourage a change in behavior. In the case of this HEAL health education training, roughly a third of the participants are illiterate. The effectiveness of BioSand Water Filters and new water wells can only be sustained through health education and the integration of new healthy habits.

HEAL TOT (Training of Trainers) at Tboung Khmum

For this work, CWEF’s Cambodia team uses the mindsets and resources from the Global CHE (Community Health Evangelism) Network. In Tboung Khmum, we are partnering with Pastor Chea Sareun, Deaconess Kim Ly, members of the local church, and others from the surrounding villages who want to work toward positive change in their own communities.

CWEF projects provide a platform for encouraging sustainable change, aiming for long-term improvements in people’s lives. Project recipients are treated as partners as they receive awareness and training to enhance their livelihoods. Projects like HEAL provide both needed infrastructure, such as water filters and/or water wells, and deeper health and hygiene education for the whole community.

CWEF’S Kanhchana Thoy, with local church partners

Gifts like yours provide life-changing BioSand Water Filters to families like that of Mrs. Hun. Her husband and son will have an improved quality of life as they are spared from additional water-related illnesses. Daily life for Mrs. Hun is positively changed as her access to clean, reliable water is given through your generous support.

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Meili’s Meaningful Service and Promising Future

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,” is a well-known Chinese proverb attributed to Confucius. Active involvement in community health education is a hallmark of the HEAL program, through the training of adult and children health advocates.  

CWEF’s Senior Programs Director, Jenny Chu, shares:

“There is a great advantage to training young health advocates since they easily learn and can change their behavior. Once they have new health knowledge—like the importance of hand washing or brushing their teeth—kids can develop good habits and improve their wellness.”

Nineteen-year-old Meili is a high school senior in Lufeng County, Yunnan Province. She is from the Miao people group, which has its own unique language and culture. Meili was trained as a local health advocate and played a key role in the HEAL training activity in her home village of Beiyinqing during December 2020.

“Most older adults and younger children [in Beiyinqing] do not understand Mandarin Chinese. Meili, who is bi-lingual, explained the health lessons in the Miao language and combined the information with her own personal experience.”

Jenny Chu

Made possible by your generosity, a total of 18 children and 20 adults participated in the December training session, which covered personal hygiene, coronavirus prevention, and safe use of pesticides for the adults. Proper handwashing has always been a cornerstone of the HEAL curriculum, but “now school teachers value this part of the project even more. What happened in 2020 has drawn more attention to the importance of health education and good hygiene habits.”

Because of your generous gifts to the HEAL project, Beiyinqing village will complete construction of four new water cisterns in time for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holiday. The new facilities will improve access to drinking water for the villagers, increase water access for domestic and livestock use, and increase irrigation reservoirs, improving farming and animal husbandry for the farmers in Beiyinqing. All of these improvements will improve the personal health and environmental sanitation for the whole community.

Parents in the village value their children’s education and support the training of youth health advocates and the subsequent education of their peers. The water and hygiene projects for the community can help to raise the quality of life and income for the families in the village.

A common path for those who are educated is to later leave Beiyinqing in search of better paying work, to help support their family members back in the village. The adults hope to raise the standard of living at home, so that their talented youth don’t need to leave for work, but can remain an integral part of community life. 

Meili shares this outlook of internal motivation to solve problems and find solutions without waiting for outside help. Her mother has admired Meili’s persistence and enthusiasm for learning. She hopes Meili will be able to go to a good school and have a bright future.

Meili is an exemplar of a peer leader, having already volunteered in other public welfare activities in the summer of 2020. She brought valuable skills, ideas, and language ability to the CWEF health education training for younger students in her village. Students who participated in the health education training will serve as health advocates for their fellow students—teaching them important health knowledge and modeling good habits.

As she looks to her own future, Meili hopes to study theology at a university in Yunnan, so that she can continue to teach and serve her Miao people in their own language and culture.

Thank you for your partnership in making our shared vision become a reality—where villages like Beiyinqing filled with people like Meili can grow into thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.

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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.

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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!”


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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:

 

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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!”


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