Diary from Phnom Village
Julivius reflects on his time in Phnom Village as part of the team launching the pilot latrine construction subsidy scheme…
17th May 2018
I fill in a form applying to volunteer for the Phnom sanitation project, Cambodia. WISE was going back to Phnom Village after eight months. Their goal was to pilot a latrine subsidy scheme in Phnom village and I intended to help with preparing the logistics from my home in Bandung, Indonesia.
20th May 2018
I’ve been asked to help with administrative tasks and off we go.
There are a variety of duties that I’m involved in: field team recruitment, drafting the communications plan and template for the activity journal, keeping track of the status of project implementation documents and identifying logistical needs. The hopes to see the village itself is in the air but I don’t really expect to get the chance.
17th June 2018
The news comes in and I think you can guess what it is. I joined the field team!!! I’ve been assigned to be in charge for logistics and documentation. I feel nervous, actually. I’ve never been overseas and I worry. What if I screw up? What if I fall sick? And so on until I think to myself, I won’t be by myself. My teammates will cover my back.
14th July 2018
Long short story, we successfully implemented the pilot scheme to subsidise latrines in the Phnom village. Some of us stayed for a whole two weeks, including me. At night, the sky is so clear that you can see thousands, maybe millions, of stars sprinkled up there. Several stilt house are so high that the wooden floor of the house is approximately 5 metres above the ground. They don’t use the Roman alphabet in their Khmer language, they have their own script. It was a nice experience to engage with the community, to learn a new culture, to understand a new language and to appreciate humanity itself. I only learnt basic Khmer words, such as how to order drinks and how to say that I don’t speak Khmer, and my teammates patiently taught me instead of laughing at me when I failed to say it in the right way.
Language barriers are inevitable. Some of us are Singaporeans, some of us, including me, are Indonesians, and of course, there were the Cambodians themselves. So, misunderstandings happened from time to time. Luckily, I felt that the team was steady and we were also adaptive so changes in plans here and there didn’t really affect us. Compassion is another positive trait that I need to mention here, considering that it took 2 days for us to select 5 eligible households to receive the subsidy, because we wanted to choose people who most needed it.
Personally, it would be better if WISE has a ‘foothold’, a member in neighbouring area or at least someone who resides in Cambodia, so that they could help WISE better prepare before executing projects (Editor’s note: Indeed, WISE recently hired our first team member in Cambodia!). Implementation could have been improved but it’s good enough considering it was done in 2 weeks excluding the construction period.
Looking back, I have no regrets in taking those chances (a risky one I would say) but you never know how the story will unfold, aye?
✍️ Julivius Prawira
The pilot latrine construction subsidy scheme was powered by National Youth Council Singapore’s Singapore-ASEAN Youth Fund.