Growing Up with Chev
For most 13-year-olds, growing up is a process of finding one’s place in their community. The structure, habits, roles and traditions established by forebears expand to make room for each new member. But generally, cycles continue largely unchanged.
In Chev’s 13 years growing up in a rural Cambodian community, however, her development has run parallel to her surroundings. For the first few years of her life, her family collected their supply of water from an uncovered, unfiltered well. The reliability of the water’s source was countered by the ongoing uncertainty of its safety. Without the ability to filter out impurities, debris and water-borne pathogens, every sip carried some degree of risk.
Over time, she and her two brothers grew and replaced the mysteries of youth with the security that comes with education. At the same time, her parents and neighbors made the world around them safer and more prosperous through their own studies, as well. With facilitation from Outreach field staff, members formed a community-led development group to identify the poverty-related issues they faced. Then, they prioritized their most-pressing concerns and mobilized to address them through coordinated action. Neighborhood children joined their parents at meetings, and watched plans become goals, goals become triumphs.
Chev witnessed the first meeting. She watched her parents play an active role. They investigated sustainable solutions to permanently improve water quality for everyone in their community. She listened to the group identify bio-sand filters. These are a low-cost, reliable system that removes pathogens and detritus from their water. She watched as community members poured concrete into molds for each apparatus. She saw them install filters at homes throughout her community. They added sand to each, and then the first drops of clean water poured from each spout. She can remember when the filters were new and novel, and noticed the contrast, now that they are a part of her daily life.
In subsequent community-led projects, Chev kept pace with her family as they grew from participants. They became architects of community-led projects. Her mother was one of the local leaders who spearheaded a community-wide effort. She led a group that was tasked to increase their respective levels of household income. they planned to manufacture and sell small, decorative boxes, woven from palm leaves. The boxes, referred to locally as “handicrafts,” have virtually no upfront material costs, and are easily made by hands of all sizes. They ultimately make appealing gifts for customers at markets in the nearby city of Phnom Penh. Over time, community members increased their output and widen the range of sizes and styles. And meanwhile, her mother and other local representatives gained more leverage to negotiate higher prices from vendors.
Prior to organizing through Outreach facilitation, changes in Chev’s community were isolated and rare by comparison. For her parents, collaborating on community-led projects meant challenging their own expectations for the future. It also meant changing their mindsets to reach new, more ambitious goals. For Chev, her world has become one of restless tenacity and boundless capacity, where the future grows brighter by the day.
How to Help
You know what else is a sustainable solution to chronic poverty-related issues? YOU! Donate today! and experience the thrill that comes with taking an active role in worldwide empowerment.