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Consider giving the gift of a water well to Cambodian families

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Cambodia appeal: Claire Smith

A group of Bermudians are travelling to Cambodia in February to build houses for those in need in one of the world’s poorest countries.And they are offering Bermudians a chance to give an “alternative Christmas present” a $100 water well.Group leader Claire Smith said yesterday the donations can be made through the Tabitha Foundation, a charity that aims to help people help themselves.Wells are particularly important in Cambodia. It has good weather for six months of the year, but in the other half of the year it is often afflicted with drought or flood which make it difficult to get water for necessities such as washing and cooking.Ms Smith said: “Each morning, until recently, a young Cambodian girl got up at 4am and walked for three kilometres until she reached the community well. There she waited for her turn at the pump, a wait so long that by the time she reached home with her two pails of water, six hours had passed. These two pails had to meet the daily needs of each member of her family. And like each family member, this young Cambodian girl was saddled with the excruciating burden of poverty. She suffered from constant diarrhoea, skin rashes and sores; matted hair with lice. The water she carried home was used sparingly. It was used to cook the family’s meagre food, it was used to wipe a body and then another, it was used for washing dishes and then used again for washing clothes.“Now this child goes to school because her family received a water well from Tabitha Foundation. It’s difficult to imagine life without water, but in Cambodia this is reality for too many people.”She added: “During times of flood, families often lose their food, animals and clothing they are reduced to absolute poverty. During times of drought, the crops and animals fail to thrive and the people are reduced to inadequate food supplies. Whatever debt the family owes during these six months cannot be repaid, leaving families without land or house or whatever else they used for collateral.“The spiritual aspect of unpaid debts often causes feelings of deep depression because, as Buddhists, they believe that if they die in debt they will be reincarnated in a lower life form.”Ms Smith said the well programme helped to break the “vicious” cycle of poverty the weather patterns created.Water wells can change lives very quickly. One water well costs $100 and provides water to three families. Income is quadrupled through the growing of vegetables, but more importantly, a food source is secured.“What I like about Tabitha is that the families receiving water wells, or houses, have to contribute ten percent of the cost themselves. This may take them a long time to accomplish but it gives them a sense of achievement and teaches them that they are in control of their destiny.”She added: “We are self-financing the housebuilding project but we are currently fundraising for water wells and would like to offer the Bermuda community an alternative Christmas present, one that has a dramatic impact on people who suffer from abject hunger and despair. Anyone who donates a water well can receive a card that they can give to their recipient.”Money can be deposited into Butterfield account 20030060351011200, or dropped off at the newly opened Bay Grape shop in the Washington Mall next to the ATM.For more information contact Ms Smith on 236-7854.

Water task: A Cambodian man waters his crops in his backyard on the outskirts of the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in all of Southeast Asia, has a rural population of 80 percent, many of whom do not have easy access to water. Bermudians now have the opportunity to give an alternative Christmas present; $100 will give three families a well.