Family Health Flourishes in the Hands of Mothers

Written by
FH staff writer
Published on
February 24, 2022 at 4:28:00 PM PST February 24, 2022 at 4:28:00 PM PSTth, February 24, 2022 at 4:28:00 PM PST
Washing your hands is a simple yet life-saving practice everyone with access to water can use to improve their health.


Before FH Cambodia began a partnership with the rural community of Kra Nhoung, most of the families in the village did not have a toilet at home. They were forced to “go” wherever they could find a semi-private place. This led to poor sanitation and contributed to the contamination of water sources. In addition, most people drank unsafe water because they either didn’t know their water was making them sick, or they didn’t have the capacity to purify it—water filters were not common.

To compound these health issues, there were no trained health workers living in their village to show people what they could do differently.

That’s where Rong Rath comes in.

Rath is a 38-year-old mother with only a Grade 1 level education. She and her husband have four children—two girls and two boys—ranging in age from 21 to eight. Together, they make a living as farmers and small business owners. They raise 100 chickens and 20 ducks! They also cultivate a four hectare rice paddy from which they harvest two tons of rice a year, and grow enough cassava to earn 10,000,000 Riel ($2500 CAD) every season. In addition, they earn money from selling groceries in front of their house.

While all this might seem impressive (and it really is!) Rath’s real super power is volunteering with FH Cambodia as a Cascade health group leader.

“Before being involved with FH Cambodia, I did not know more about health care,” she explains. “We drank unsafe water, we did not practice handwashing with soap in a proper way, and our environment was not good enough. I also did not know how to care for myself when I got pregnant and after pregnancy; nobody gave me enough advice in the village because we did not have a health volunteer.”

"My life has changed since being involved with FH Cambodia. My family and I have good health since we have turned to drinking safe water, practicing handwashing with soap, and using a toilet" — Rath

Cascade health groups are a community oriented way to share life-saving knowledge in the areas of water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, maternal and infant care, and more. FH Cambodia equips the leaders of each group with a series of health lessons and practical materials, like flipcharts, so they can go and teach their own group of 10-12 neighbours. These leaders and groups are most often mothers, as women tend to own the primary responsibility for their families’ health. But, sometimes, men also participate in Cascade training so they also can help educate their communities toward healthier and safer living.

“The reason that I got involved with FH Cambodia is that I saw the impact of Mrs. Troeb Oeun who is a health volunteer in the village. She always gave me and other people information and lessons about health, and then I always practiced what she guided me to do. …So, I wanted to be a volunteer like her, to get new lessons about health from FH staff. I want to share what I get…with my family and other neighbours in the village.”

The members in Rong Rath’s Cascade health group recently voted her to become a group leader and work more closely with FH staff. “I was very glad about that!” she exclaims.

“My life has changed since being involved with FH Cambodia,” continues Rong Rath. “My family and I have good health since we have turned to drinking safe water, practicing handwashing with soap, and using a toilet. My house is always clean in response to the lessons that I have gotten from FH Cambodia.”

Rong Rath's family is healthier and happier since she began her training as an FH health volunteer.

Becoming a leader and learning to train other women on brand new ideas also increased Rong Rath’s personal confidence. “Before, I was so shy. But after I became involved with FH Cambodia, I gained more knowledge and built my capacity to upgrade myself.” Friends and family members now come to her for advice—they know she’s taken the FH training and they can see the positive results playing out in her own family.

And the whole community is changing!

Most families now have access to a toilet at home, so they enjoy a more sanitary environment and practice better hygiene. They also drink clean water after boiling it or using ceramic or bio sand water filters. More women have started going to the health centre or hospital to deliver their babies. Rong Rath observes, “In terms of the household environment, our community looks more beautiful and cleaner if compared to the past.”

Want to support women like Rong Rath? The following Gift Guide gifts directly support health training and infrastructure in partner communities.

Chubby Cheeks

Clean Toilet