The staff at the Trailblazer Foundation could not be more proud to announce that this year will mark the 10-year anniversary of the commencement of their organization. This pride, present due to the exponential increase of impact that the Trailblazer Foundation has seen over the years, holds true for both expatriate founders and local staff alike. When the formerly unrevealed organization began their work in Siem Reap, nearly 10 years ago, founders Scott and Chris Coats worked to increase the amount of potable water available to Khmer locals, with merely one bio-sand water filter mold and practically zero additional help. In the beginning years, the Trailblazer Foundation was producing upwards of 300 bio-sand water filters each year. Today, the Trailblazer Foundation both produces and delivers over 400 water filters each year, in addition to the approximate 120 wells drilled per year, and inevitable upsurge in local food production and wealth. This success can be largely attributed to a noticeable gain in both local and international support; due to increased funding, the Trailblazer Foundation has been able to provide training and salary wages to the now 11-person Trailblazer staff.
Trailblazer Foundation’s goals continue to rise. The current headquarters, where staff members and volunteers connect, is simply not large enough in size to meet the demanding needs for potable water in and around Siem Reap. Therefore, the Trailblazers plan to move to a new location that will accommodate both the office and the workspace needed in order to meet these needs. When asked if the organization will see an increase in production once the headquarters have been moved, co-founder Scott Coats responded by exclaiming, “That’s one of the reasons we want to move…so that we can increase our potential!” “We’re improving the worksite,” he added. Furthermore, in upcoming months, the Trailblazers hope to hire their 12th member to the team. This additional worker, who will join the current three-man bio-sand water filter team, will make production considerably more efficient.
The both exuberant and scrupulous Trailblazer staff notes overwhelmingly positive remarks toward the organization’s growth; nevertheless, one regretful piece of information remains. Although Trailblazer Foundation has, for 10 years, been able to provide water filters at a cheaper price than those offered by other water filter NGOs in Cambodia, “inflation has caught up with us,” remarks Coats. The increased cost of transporting the 150lb water filters, in addition to an increase in the cost of copper (used as piping), has resulted in an indispensible increase in the cost of providing a water filter to a family in need. The cost to both produce and deliver a bio-sand water filter is now $80 USD.
Trailblazer Foundation plans to continue to foster increased health and growth in local families. However, support is always needed. If you are able to provide support financially, the Trailblazer staff, as well as local beneficiaries, cannot thank you enough. Or, if you find yourself travelling in South East Asia, and are able to provide support through physical labor, your presence would be greatly appreciated. As always, thank you for the ongoing support.
The following is a postcard from Charissa Murphy, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Southeast Asia, about her recent visit to the Trailblazer Foundation in Cambodia.
The basic necessities of life: Food, water, shelter, clothing. Education isn't one of them, but why not? Because if children are hungry, ill from unclean water, or fragile and weak from the environment's forces, their ability to be present and learn is significantly diminished.
This is how the Trailblazer Foundation (TF) began its focus on providing the people in Cambodia with access to water. As surprising as it may be, considering the distances to target villages are not from the highly-touristed Angkor Wat boutique hotels, the same limitations to these basic needs still exists prevalently for people in Cambodia today. At four different villages I had the opportunity to ask some of TF's beneficiaries about their lives. I wanted to capture an idea of what life was like for them before they were provided access to water and now after they received a well and/or bio-sand water filter. After hearing some of their stories, it was clear that the transformation the filters and wells has on the villagers' lives means they (we!) need to keep reaching more and more people, families, and communities there. Many people in Cambodia are still limited to dirty, unsafe water, causing them to frequently be ill. Basic needs are still not being met everywhere, but village-by-village TF is supporting the villagers to create more sustainable practices and methods of health and income.
48, Female, mother of 2 (1 deceased during Khmer Rouge), husband left her after 2nd son birth
Before: I used to have to walk very far for water. I lost a limb in the Khmer Rouge, which makes it difficult.
Now: I still have to carry water, but now I have a well and filter at my house, so the distance is much shorter and easier for me. My home garden has also grown, increasing my income and giving me more of a reason to live. (It was touching, yet heartbreaking, to hear that she didn’t feel she had much to live for, and now after receiving access to water she feels happier and with purpose).
61, Male, father of 6
Before: We used to take at least one family member to the hospital every day for illnesses.
Now: If I think really clearly, in the five years since receiving the bio-sand filter, my family and I have never been to the hospital, even the commune hospital. [Never in the five years. Incredible.]
After my visit with TF and speaking with various villagers, I'm confident that the donations you all have provided to them are truly impacting the lives of so many in Cambodia. The needs unfortunately haven't changed much, which makes it clear that there are greater governmental and systemic issues. Until those are resolved, the Khmer still need support.
I was also so inspired by TF that I asked to stay a month longer to help support them as a direct volunteer. My focus was on providing capacity-building assistance on the village fund micro-financing program, helping to create a way for volunteers to stay connected with TF and other volunteers (join the Trailblazer Foundation Volunteers Facebook group if you have ever volunteered for TF!), and documenting villager stories.
Trailblazer is truly changing the lives of villagers one village at a time, and there are still more villages to reach, as well as conducting maintenance and replacements of previously delivered filters. Thank you all for your support!
Upcoming Event on GlobalGiving – TODAY, this Wednesday, July 16th, is a Bonus matching day!:
Today, July 16th (Wednesday), beginning at 9AM EDT, GlobalGiving will match 40% of any donations (of up to $1,000 from any individual donor) to Trailblazer Foundation. There are $130,000 in total funds available for matching that day for all of GlobalGiving’s partners. To ensure your donation is matched before the funds run out, please consider donating early today shortly after 9AM.
Trailblazer continues its weekly distribution of bio-sand water filters to rural families in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. We have over 3,000 filters in the field now, providing access to potable water to a hundred thousand individuals. Each filter gives the recipient family, or families, a sufficient supply of safe drinking water every day for up to a decade. Incidents of diarrhea diminish. Children and their parents are healthier. Students can attend school. Adults can work and support their families better. Medical expenses are reduced. Filters are a simply, low tech system that are easy to use and maintain. Thanks to all our supporters for giving these families clean water and hope of a better life, at a price of $60USD per filter.
In 2013 Trailblazer's teams were able to complete the drilling of 111 wells and installation of 425 water filters because of the wonderful support of donors, like yourself. You wanted to make a change and improve the life of a rural Cambodian family, and you did it.
Hundreds of parents and children are now experiencing a better life from the benefits of sccess to water and clean water. They are healthier: parents are able to work and support their families, children are able to go to school and continue their education.
With access through a well they are able to irrigate a garden and provide more nutritional food for their family, along with earning some income by selling the excess produce.
Thank you for being the catalyst for change, for bringing them water and giving hope of a better life to these hundreds of families.
First, I wish to thank everyone who made our September Challenge campaign a great success. We raised over $5,000 to support our water programs. That means that over 80 rural families will get clean drinking water, improving their health with better sanitation and hygiene conditions. Children won't suffer from water borne illnesses and will be able to stay in school to get an education leading them toward greater success. Adults won't be sick and will be able to work better, earning more income to support their families.
Trailblazer Foundation has been installing bio-sand water filters for nearly 8 years now and has well over 4,000 delivered to rural villagers in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. Yet each year the list of those in need grows.
Trailblazer is known for tackling greatest needs and following through on its commitments. This reputation has opened doors and is critical to building on established relations over time. Each year Trailblazer is invited to attend Integrated District Workshops to review priority lists of identified needs and sign agreements to help using a participatory model of community-based development. Water is a typical priority because it allows people to drink, bathe and irrigate. Our team, right now, is collecting new data of identified needs and villages from five different district workshops.
One of the most telling indicators for a lack of development is water access, food security, nutrition, and health status of the people. One of the easiest ways to combat poverty and disease is to provide access to clean water sources. Bio-sand water filters ensure water from any water source is potable, immediately reducing the impact of water borne diseases. With a bio-sand water filter there is no need to boil the water after filtration to make it safe to drink. They are easy to use, save villagers’ time, money and firewood, and ultimately improve their overall health and the environment.
When there is access to water, associated developments can occur to improve livelihoods and establish sustainable commerce. Our list of projects for 2014 may appear overwhelming, but Trailblazer's effectiveness in helping improve health and reducing poverty will bring hope to thousands. Your generousity allows us to continue helping, one family at a time, one village at a time.
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