News Feature

Expanding Cambodian Water Project

Larger filters provide clean water to schoolchildren, families

Ryleigh Porter, ’21, sums up Bridgewater State University’s latest trip to Cambodia in three words: “We changed lives.”

Ryleigh and six peers visited the Southeast Asian country for two weeks during the break between semesters to continue a decade-long tradition of bringing clean water to Cambodians.

The contingent tackled a special project (pictured at right) – building a water filtration system for 570 students at Khvien School in Siem Reap. The system also serves 20 nearby families. BSU collaborated with the local community and Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia-Siem Reap. Cambodian and BSU students cleaned sand and stones used in filters, dug trenches and assembled the system. BSU also students taught Khvien School pupils about water and hygiene.

Additionally, BSU and PUC-Siem Reap students trekked to Rolom Touk Village in a poorer area of Siem Reap Province to build household-sized, bio-sand filters with staff members from Water for Cambodia. That’s a traditional activity during Cambodia trips.SU students recently reflected on a life-changing experience for those they helped and themselves:

“This work was so important because there’s definitely a big problem with them having clean water, even in the city. (In rural areas) they’re literally taking the water out of standing bodies of water and just drinking it.” – Alexis Gouthro, ’20, biology major from East Bridgewater

“Not having clean water can lead to death in children. They don’t have the healthcare that we have, so if they do get sick, there isn’t as much a chance of them recovering from it.” – Ryleigh, biology major from West Bridgewater

“We did a lot of stuff, but we still had so much that needed to be done… Not only with the water, many kids don’t have any parents. They need some people to take care of them.” – Fatiana Gonclaves, ’20, biology major from Cape Verde (pictured at left working on a household-sized, bio-sand filter)

“On the last day we were teaching, all of the kids were swarming us. There was this little boy, he came up to me. It was like this instant connection. I’ve never met this child before. That’s a bond I’ll never forget.” – Dominique Durden, ’19, psychology major from New York City

“When I went there, I had culture shock. When I came back, I had a more extreme culture shock. I realized how much we take for granted. I have a lot of clutter. Looking around my room, I broke into tears. I’m still learning to be grateful for what I have.” – Alexis Thrul, ’20, communication studies major from Franklin

“I’ve taken a lot of things I’ve learned from Cambodian culture and applied it to my life – the positivity, the kindness, the way they’re very respectful of one another.” – Lyndsey Kate Littlefield, biology major from Taunton.

Student Mel Carmichael (pictured at right with Cambodian children) also traveled to Cambodia. Dr. Kevin Curry, a biology professor who has spearheaded BSU’s Cambodian efforts from the beginning, and Dan Rezendes, director of the Thornburg Fitness Center, led the trip. Rezendes helped start a fundraiser at Taunton’s Bennett Elementary School to support water projects in Cambodia.

 The BSU group thanks President Frederick W. Clark Jr., '83, as well as Dr. Chea San Chanthan and Samlei Chhoun of PUC-Siem Reap; Mam Vuth, a PUC- Phnom Penh graduate who designed the Khvien filter system; and the team at Water for Cambodia in Siem Reap.

Do you have a BSU story you’d like to share? Email stories@bridgew.edu.