A Visit to Bareebo

Founded on a principle of personal empowerment through community development, Bareebo works with villagers to resolve issues of water quality, supply, and access in the rural district of Banan in northwestern Cambodia. With the support of donors, Give2Asia is able to support the majority of Bareebo’s operational expenses. Here Crowdfunding Manager Garrison Spencer writes about his visit to Bareebo during his trip to Vietnam and Cambodia last November.

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After three hours in a car from the nearest airport in Siem Reap to Battambang, the provincial capital, and another 45 minutes by tuk-tuk, I was standing by the side of a dirt road outside Bareebo’s office, in the remote region of northwestern Cambodia in Banan district. Surrounded by the far-reaching fields with homes few and far in between, it was no longer the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, a crowded destination for tourists, and far more real than what I could imagine when I had first met Founder and Director David Emery a year ago, shortly after I began at Give2Asia. Moved by his passion to assist the villagers of rural Banan even then, I was excited for the opportunity to see his participatory approach firsthand.

Traveling slowly to avoid the deep ruts in the road, David drove us to the manufacturing site of the water harvesting cisterns and bio-sand filtration systems, the science behind Bareebo. Parked next to every home we passed by on motorbike was a cistern - each a large, concrete sphere, labeled with blue paint.

At the manufacturing site, David introduced me to one of Bareebo’s employees, a formerly destitute man who now lived on-site with his family, producing cistern halves for  USD $3 per cistern. In Phnom Kol, he introduced me to families he worked with, including two sisters whose home was located on a former minefield. Reunited after the tragedy of Khmer Rouge, the sisters were one of the original families assisted by Bareebo. Over the past five years, the two have grown a small farm, supporting themselves through agriculture. And in Thngoeur, we stopped by a community store established by the villagers with guidance from Bareebo. Villagers there pooled their money together to purchase rice seeds and other farming equipment.

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It was all too easy to focus on the immeasurable death and suffering of the past, on the “Danger: Mines” signs scattered throughout the trip. Beyond surviving, these communities had thrived. Since Bareebo began working with villagers in 2009, rates of diarrhea, hepatitis, and other water borne illnesses had dropped dramatically.  Last year alone, with support from the Holger Hahn family and Give2Asia, Bareebo was able to install 59 of their 4,000-liter rooftop rainwater harvesting cisterns and 80 bio-sand water filtration systems; 63 eco-latrines to compost waste into fertilizer; 159 home gardens to increase food security and provide a source of livelihood; as well as formed 17 community-managed leadership groups called “Self-Help Groups." In the past year, there were 83 training workshops on topics such as home water treatment and storage techniques and small business management.  

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I had read David’s reports and project proposals, so I was not unfamiliar with the scalable idea that access to quality water was foundational to improving health, education, and livelihood, as well as the organization’s emphasis on providing training resources to empower villagers. However, to see the dramatic effect of these projects in these communities was inspiring. At Give2Asia, “local knowledge counts.” For me, that was particularly true in Banan.

With additional funding, David would be able to fulfill his dream of scaling Bareebo’s model all across Cambodia. To support Bareebo, please visit here to donate.