After spending many weeks working in ten villages of Kampong Kleang Commune, north of Siem Reap on the edge of Tonle Sap Lake, NGO Partners in Progress learned that villagers’ most pressing need was to protect their children from drowning while travelling to school by boat.
To this end, the NGO has launched a program to provide every school child and teacher in the commune with lifesaving jackets.
Kim Somnang, coordinator of Partners in Progress told Insider that more than 300 families were interviewed, and 80 per cent perceived that the most pressing need was saving their kids from drowning.
He said many children die each year on their way to school when their small row boats capsize. He added, “According to my research, I would say that there are 10 to 30 cases of boats capsizing every year.”
During the team’s research, parents were asked, “What do you need the most for your children?”
Food, uniforms for school and school books were not priorities. Insteadthe provision of life saving jackets headed the agenda because, according to Kim Somnang, they are “the only thing that could protect their children from drowning and allowing them to start school on time even if they cannot swim.”
An added problem is that because of the risks of drowning, many parents delay sending their kids to school until they are eight to ten years of age, and hence many children don’t get full basic education.
William McDonough, international director of Partners in Progress said, “This is the reason why we began a campaign to buy 1, 576 life jackets in August to provide every child and teacher in the school system.”
McDonough said that $5 – the cost of a jacket including delivery costs – will not only save the life of a child, but could also change their life because they could go to school regularly.
Kampong Kleang commune chief Pa Pho said the life jackets helped his community more than anything else anybody could do, because the children can go to school safely and people know that education is the key to success in life.
Kim Somnang said that because of this deeply felt need, Partners In Progress is now committed to providing life jackets to every one of the more than 50 villages on the lake.
Somnang said, “We already made this campaign happen this year, but we will do it again next year in the rainy season because we need 7, 000 life jackets to provide for every villager living on Tonle Sap lake.”