Feb 13, 2018

How can we start the year with improved health?

Basic latrine construction Trailblazer provides
Basic latrine construction Trailblazer provides

The year is new, and much is yet to happen before the rainy season hits.  It is especially important to construct latrines during the dry season, January through June.  The rainy season makes construction of latrines impossible because the land becomes flooded.  Without a latrine, villagers have no choice but to defecate on the ground around their homes, contaminating their water sources.  

Most people are aware of the direct connection between good health and the ability for a person to prosper. In most developing countries, it is as simple as children being able go to school when they are healthy, and parents having enough time and energy to work in the store, the home, or the fields.

Lack of adequate sanitation causes more deaths than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined.  Latrines reduce the amounts of ground surface Ecoli and typhoid which contaminate crops and surface water used by villagers.  Latrines provide a more comfortable, safe and private area for use by all beneficiaries, especially women and children. The best way to improve sanitation and hygiene in poor rural villages is to build latrines.

To that end, Trailblazer's Health program primarily focuses on providing clean water to families and villages, and the construction of latrines to help increase a family’s, or village’s, overall hygiene.  Starting with clean water allows access to increased health and sustainable livelihoods. Safe water and basic sanitation are fundamentals necessary to empower the world’s poorest people and break the cycle of poverty.

With your support, Trailblazer will be able to provide the cement rings, concrete cover slab, and walls for up to 100 latrines, [at an average of 5 people per family] you will be helping 500 villagers.  Recipient villagers will be invested in the project by providing the dirt for the foundation, to avoid contamination in the flood season, as well as construct the walls and roof structure.  Each family will also receive training on sanitation and hygiene, and how to improve their health with the proper use of a latrine.

We hope you will continue to help us in this cause to reduce illness and improve villagers' health and livelihoods.

Thank you.  Our work is not possible without your generous support.

Basic wall and roof provided by recipient
Basic wall and roof provided by recipient
Upgraded latrine building
Upgraded latrine building
Improved latrine building
Improved latrine building
Dec 7, 2017

Thanks for your support during the last four years

The Buddha once said, “Without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering.”

Trailblazer's co-founder and executive director, Chris Coats, said of the first Cambodian village she worked in, “When Trailblazer arrived in Sras village in 2004, the situation was dire. There were few sources of water, and those that did exist were filthy pit wells. Malnutrition was obvious, as many of the villagers had distended bellies, bad teeth, and parasitic infections.”

These two truths explain why Trailblazer Foundation’s first priority is to the health of our partner villages.

Since our founding in 2004, Trailblazer’s goal has been to help rural Cambodian villages shift from survival to sustainability. During those fourteen years, we have found that clean water is a great place to start. Bringing abundant clean water to our partner villagers has been at the core of Trailblazer's rural community development work since day one. This is why, early on, we adopted the tagline: developing ripples of sustainability through community water projects

Complementing the role clean water plays in good health is good sanitation. This is why Trailblazer also does the unglamorous work of building latrines with our village partners.

If a family is to move out of poverty, they need to be healthy enough to pursue their other basic needs: food, education, and economic opportunities. Constructing and delivering water filters, drilling wells, and building latrines is at the core of Trailblazer’s work. In fact, our health program accounts for 36% of our expenses thus far in 2017, with the reminder going to our food security, education and economic development programs, and our administration/fundraising overhead.

Through our Health program, in 2017, we have constructed and delivered 460 water filters (ten more than our goal), with more to go in December. We have conducted trainings that address both how to use and maintain the filters, and how to maintain basic hygiene - 34 group trainings (our goal) and 460 individual trainings (ten more than our goal). And we will hold a few more trainings in December.

We have also drilled 117 wells, seventeen more than our goal. These new well owners participated in one of twelve group trainings we provided on pump maintenance and repair (our goal was twelve).

Finally, we constructed all fifty of the latrines we had planned to build. And we conducted eight trainings, for the 50 latrine beneficiary families, on latrine use and sanitation.

Here is where you come into play. Because of you, all totaled, Trailblazer has already directly benefited 3,000+ rural Cambodians through our Health program in 2017.

Sure, Trailblazer’s staff and Board came up with the overarching strategy to improve health, food security, education, and economic development in rural Cambodia, in ways that are self-sustaining by the individuals and communities we serve. And, yes, we worked with our rural village partners to identify and develop the products and services those rural villagers asked for.

But, what we created were just ideas, informed aspirations. It was your financial support that put all of it into action. The achievements outlined above would not have happened without your support. So, please, give yourself credit for these accomplishments. They are yours to share with Trailblazer and our village partners.

And that leads us to the closure of this campaign. However, it is not the end of our work in Cambodia.

As you can now see on our GlobalGiving page, Trailblazer has launched four new campaigns, covering four of the products and services we provide our village partners. By doing so, we have provided supporters like you the opportunity to further focus your giving to match your interests. We hope you will want to continue contributing to one or more of these new campaigns.

With all that said..... the best way to end this particular campaign is to say THANK YOU!!!

On behalf of Trailblazer Foundation’s staff and Board of Directors, I want to express how grateful we are for your support of our work in rural Cambodia. You have helped literally thousands of rural Cambodians live healthier, and thus happier, lives. Your support has been a simple act that has had powerful results.

P.S.  To learn more about the impact of your support, we encourage you to read our year-end newsletter.


Sep 8, 2017

Local Students Interview Members Of Their Village

We often get asked, "How do you know you have succeeded as an organization?" One metric we use is to track whether we have provided our products and services to all of the residents of a village who want them. Through our monitoring system, each year we track our annual outputs (products and services distributed), as well as the number of people whom we have directly benefitted (see our 2016 Year In Review summary on our website).
In terms of on-the-ground changes in the quality of living our village partners have experienced (in monitoring lingo, our "outcomes"), we typically look to the extensive research that exists about the positive, even transformative, impact our rural development strategies provide. Also, we collect testimonials from some of our village partners (for best example, see "Saruen's Story" video on our website homepage).
While these benchmarks continue to serve Trailblazer well in assessing our impact,we want to develop a more strategic way to acquire both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (stories) data on how our products and services are changing the lives of the individuals, families, and entire villages we serve. We are motivated to do this for three reasons.
First, more and more villages and villagers are asking us to support them, and we will be able to better plan and evaluate our work with a robust monitoring, evaluation and reporting (MER) process. Second, as we expand our fundraising efforts to include more grant-making entities, we are being asked for more details about our monitoring and evaluation systems. Finally, establishing a more robust MER process is the last major undertaking of our now two-year effort to strengthened Trailblazer as an organization.
This past spring, Trailblazer enlisted the pro bono support of a MER expert, local to Fort Collins (Trailblazer's home base in the states), to provide guidance for three MER related  projects: [1] developing the process and protocols for Trailblazer's enhanced monitoring, evaluation and reporting system; [2] hiring a MER manager, a Cambodian who will work with our team in Cambodia; and [3] initiating a pilot project to have local Cambodian high school students interview Trailblazer recipients in their own villages to collect data and stories about our work.
The pilot project took place in late July, when four students from the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap conducted interviews with forty residents of six villages (all photos here from those interviews). Each person interviewed had received a water filter and a well, Trailblazer's ideal combination for clean water. And these people had received these products within the last eighteen months, a timeline that allows Trailblazer to follow these families from the very beginning, or close to the beginning, of their having the well and filter .
While we don't have the hard data fully tabulated yet, here are some of the more pertinent or informative observations the students made.
1. The students are interested in doing this again next year, and believe the answers they receive then will be more in depth, as the recipients will have had more experience with their wells and filters.
2. Generally speaking, the recipients now realize how the combination of a well and water filter gives them both more access to water, and better quality drinking water. The students predict that next year the recipients will say the well has provided them and their families with a better garden, and thus better food. The year after, the students' surmise, the recipients will have more money, as they would have been able to sell excess crops from their garden.
3. One humorous thing the students pointed out is that, due to the high iron content in the well water (which makes the water a little rust colored), families are filtering that water before using it to wash their clothes and babies. Yes, this is a funny - as in curious - practice. However, it makes perfectly good sense in terms of the recipients solving a problem they have.
4. Another funny answer that stuck with the students was a husband and wife that said they used to argue all the time about who would get the water (since they had to travel further to a water source). That couple was thankful for the well and filter, as they now have one less thing to worry about, and argue about (an unanticipated benefit of Trailblazer's work).
5. Maybe the most helpful feedback we received from the students had to do with the equitable distribution of wells and water filters. Specifically, the students worried about poorer families that may not have attended the village meeting when the opportunity to ask for a water filter or well was announced. This possibility had to do with how close a given family lives to the center of that village, with those families who have more financial resources (everything is relative) probably living closer.
The implications of where one lives has to do with how easily they can attend the village meeting when the opportunity to order a well or water filter was presented. This occurs during an annual needs assessment meeting, facilitated by the village chief. If a person or family lives closer to the village center, they will be more likely to both hear about the meeting, and be able to attend the meeting (due to distance and financial resources needed to get to the meeting).
As a recommendation, the students, who would know because they grew up in these villages, suggested that Trailblazer work with village chiefs to set up a better system for ensuring all villagers know about this annual meeting, and can attend it if they want to. This is the type of data Trailblazer wants to be able to collect and/or collect more of, as it helps us evaluate and refine our programs, products and services.
As such, this pilot project has already proven to be valuable in enhancing Trailblazer's program monitoring. Combine that success with our efforts to develop better MER systems and hire a new MER manager, and Trailblazer will be able to fully launch our improved monitoring and evaluation process in early 2018. While this may not be the most captivating part of Trailblazer's work, it is critical to our continued growth and success. Therefore, it is exciting news we wanted to share with you, our supporters.


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