At 22, Champa has big goals for her community in Cambodia and beyond: she dreams of a South-East Asia with clean drinking water, hygienic toilets and proper sanitation for all. This is something that is close to her heart: in her homeland, 1 in 4 Cambodians lack access to safe water, while more than 1 in 3 of them lack access to proper sanitation.
Champa’s passion is evident as she laments that most people in South-East Asia still have little awareness about issues regarding water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Observing people defecate freely in the open, she became starkly aware of the lack of proper sanitation facilities and habits in her community. This desire to help her community prompted her to volunteer with WISE, which was introduced to her by her friend, Piseth. In her work as a field volunteer, it struck her that many people, especially in rural areas, were not familiar with the practice of handwashing with soap, a simple habit which is crucial in removing germs from hands. To some of them, the idea of toilets is even more alien. These experiences surveying households and visiting suppliers not only opened her eyes to these issues in her community, but also made her more confident in her field work.
Champa beseeches people to pay more attention to WASH issues. More than just clean drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene are vital in creating a better environment and higher standards of health for all. To her, those who fail to see this will only end up living in a world that is harmful to both themselves and the environment.
Outside of her life as a field volunteer, Champa gushes over South-Korean singer-actress Sandara Park (also known as by her stage name Dara), confesses to pampering herself with food and clothes, while musing about a lack of sleep.
Just as her idol Dara is at the forefront of the global Hallyu wave, Both Champa is making waves of her own in her community, championing her work in the WASH sector. Champa revealed that her greatest fear is losing. Perhaps that’s apt: in the endeavour towards her dream of a better community, what we stand to lose is more than just basic hygiene and sanitation for all, but a loss of human dignity.
Written by Enver Loh. This profile is also available in Khmer.