One of the first things we did when Lin, Sophal and I arrived in Tramung Chrum this week was to check out the newly built latrine behind the Red Dirt Road sewing business.  Saly was all smiles as she lead us through the dirt to “Tony’s Toilet.”

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When Lin visited Tramung Chrum last year, she spent an evening by candlelight talking with Saly and her family about life in this remote
Cambodia village.  Lin had a desire to donate something tangible–a building or a well, or perhaps some solar panels– which would stand in honor of her late husband, Tony.  When asked what they needed most, Saly and her father answered in unison: a toilet! With no electricity or plumbing in the village, people use the bushes. And with eight Red Dirt Road sewers working out of Saly’s parents one-room house, the surrounding bushes were getting a lot of use.

So began a year-long journey to build a latrine. $700 was wired to Sophal, who enlisted the help of Yousos.  Yousos is  an employee of the Harpswell Foundation and organizes programs in the village.  Neither of them knew anything about building a latrine.  “So, figure it out!” we thought.   But nothing is simple in Cambodia.  One cannot Google “latrine builders” or refer to “Angie’s List” for recommended contractors.  And there is a certain reluctance here to engage with strangers on matters involving substantial amounts of money. So the project stalled.

Eventually a builder was hired and the latrine completed–just in time for our arrival this week.  I suspect the fear of Lin’s wrath was a motivating factor in finally getting the project done.  What a difference it is to stay overnight in the village when there is a simple toilet next to a cistern of water.  And the room is large enough to stand and take a sponge bath before bed!  Considering that the villagers have lived without this luxury for their entire lives, I am reminded how physically easy our lives are in the developed world.

On my next trip,  I will remember to bring toilet tissue.

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