In Rural Cambodia, A Single Mother Overcomes the Odds with Clean Water

Yee Lai’s hands are always at work. Behind her soft voice and attentive eyes is a dutiful work ethic and a fierce independence.

After her husband passed, Yee Lai raised six children in her home in Rohal village, putting them through school, nursing them back to health when they fell ill, and growing rice and cassava to keep them fed.

Today, four have married and moved away. She has four grandchildren, and her life looks completely different than it did those many years ago.

Her children had an overall happy childhood. They had neighborhood friends, school work to complete, and games to play. Still, Yee mourns the suffering they experienced.

Yee Lai packages her cotton for sale.

Before Safe Water in Rohal Village

The Cambodian rains are known for their sweeping power, and in Yee’s neighborhood, they flooded everything. Human and animal waste from the surrounding forest was carried into local springs and rivers, and Yee’s children had no choice but to drink water from those same sources.

Rohal is a large village, and while Yee was raising her children, four wells within walking distance sat in disrepair, creating a sense of hopelessness for families forced to drink from puddles just feet from the broken wells.

“Sometimes, we would spend three hours in the fields just looking for water to use for the day,” she said. “Each child was sick three times a year with diarrhea, typhoid, and fever.”

One of the old, contamianted water sources in Rohal village

“Tidy Clothes and Happy Hearts:” A Transformation for Yee Lai

In 2016, generous donors funded safe water and sanitation and hygiene lessons in Rohal village. Yee’s family learned how building their own toilet, washing their hands during critical times of the day, and keeping a clean home can drastically reduce illness, and they became a Healthy Home.

“Since we have a latrine and clean water at home, we do not get sick like before, and we don’t spend money for the hospital as we become more healthy,” Yee said. “Our children can go to school happily and help with work too.”

Two of Yee Lai’s youngest children stand proudly next to their new bathroom.

A Lifewater certified “Healthy Home” in Cambodia is a hard-earned accomplishment. Most families in remote corners of the Southeast Asian country have never heard about the health improvements that clean water and sanitation can have in their villages.

Families must change almost all of their sanitation and hygiene habits. It takes humility, vulnerability, and a lot of trust between our staff and families.

Local Lifewater staff pray together each morning, asking for God’s help to serve and love others well.

Now, Rohal village has water filters and rainwater storage tanks of their own. Their four broken wells have been repaired, and they can have safe water whenever they want. Lifewater helped Yee’s family construct their own toilet, and 36% of her neighbors have Healthy Homes.

Yee and her children have more time together. They have “tidy clothes and hopeful hearts,” according to our staff in the field, and Yee has even begun collecting cotton to help supplement her income from rice farming. She is true entrepreneur.

“I hope to have a small business selling groceries and raising chickens at home,” she said. “I want my community to become healthy like my household too.”

Transformation like this takes everyone, from donors to Lifewater staff to dedicated mothers like Yee.

Lifewater supporters cared for Yee’s family and gave generously to change their lives forever. In turn, Yee Lai and her family were relentless in their efforts. Today, they have a home and a life that reflects their hard work.


Choose a Village. Change a Life.