In the Siem Reap region of Cambodia, I recently spent a short time shadowing LDS humanitarian missionaries–Brother and Sister Kohls–and a short-term specialist engineer (and his wife). It was a very enlightening two days.
On the first day, we spent the entire day visiting 12 rural primary schools located in the region southeast of Siem Reap. The humanitarian workers were looking at the drinking water needs at each school. Some needed a better water source and others needed water treatment. Because of limited funds, at each school delicate negotiations went on to determine the most important need. From these negotiations, the LDS missionaries made out a priority list of small water projects they could possibly fund.
On the second day, we took a small boat across the northern end of Tonle Sap (a large shallow lake located in central Cambodia) to Prektol village, a river community comprised of a mix of Cambodians and Viet Namese refugees. At this location, LDS Humanitarian Service had helped finance a solar-powered water treatment plant that pumped water from the river, removed the sediments, and then treated it with microfiltration and UV disinfection. At the time we were there, the UV disinfection unit was being repaired. The inspection was carried out by short-term specialist Elder Henrie.
Early May, the time I was in Cambodia, is the end of the dry season. Tonle Sap was low and the young helmsman of our traditional-looking boat had trouble negotiating the lake crossing. On several occasions, the boat was grounded. He also had to avoid fishing nets. The one-hour boat trip (each way) turned out to be very pleasant. Near where we boarded the boat is a community of lake dwellers, their homes constructed on stilts, and boats their means of getting around.
The LDS humanitarian missionaries were very sincere in their efforts and were enjoying Cambodia. It is very encouraging to see retired LDS couples working to improve conditions in developing countries, particularly in rural areas. Clean water has been identified by the UN as a major area of emphasis, and the LDS program with their water projects is right on target. I can’t thank the Kohls enough for the work they are doing. I would like to see the Church recognize the efforts of these missionaries as much as they do the procelytizing missionaries.