Stories > A Simple Act

2013 • Issue 2

A Simple Act

“It was a simple yet profound lesson that brought me back as a volunteer — again and again. On my first trip as a volunteer to Cambodia, I learnt the importance of cherishing what we have.

But this lesson was only truly cemented on my return trip to the same village six months later. On that trip, I revisited a family we had installed a water filter for, the first time around. The father, rice farmer Sam Sitha, told me how much the water filter had helped his family. Because they no longer got sick and needing to spend money on medical bills, he was able to save enough to send his brother to Phnom Penh to study. He was so happy. I was extremely touched by his story.

It was through volunteering that I learnt of the harsh reality that many in our neighbouring countries have to go through. On my first stint with the SIF Water for Life project in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, we installed bio-sand water filters. Typhoid and diarrhoea cases were common among the villagers because they had no access to clean drinking water. Often, they would have to walk a distance away from their homes to fetch water. Sometimes the water was chalky and muddy. When they fell ill because of the bacteria in the water, they would have to pay as much as US$25 to see a doctor. Imagine what that means — most of them live on less than a dollar a day. It’s a struggle as it is. Falling ill means losing earnings because they cannot work for those few days, and borrowing money which puts them in an even worse situation.

It was only when I revisited Sam Sitha’s family that I fully appreciated the impact of our volunteer work. Our simple act of kindness could bring so many benefits to the lives of our Cambodian friends and their families. And it is this appreciation that has brought me back to Cambodia four times now over the last year.”

— Muhammad Yusof, Four-time Singapore International Volunteer (SIV)

For more information on the SIF Water for Life project, see

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