Hundreds of students and families in Sarika Keo commune, near the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, now have safe drinking water thanks to a program of the “New Sprout” association set up and headed by a nun. Sister Anne Marie Gallice, who heads New Sprout, said that in the area people cannot use water from wells because the ground water is poisoned by arsenic. “We need to provide them with safe water.” According to New Sprout program manager Sin Touch, funding comes from 1001, a French organisation specialising in producing pure water. New Sprout provides pure drinking water free of charge to temples and schools in the area and sells it at a nominal price to homes. Sin said while most water companies sell 20-liter bottles at US$1, “we sell for 25 cents.” “So a lot of poor families can afford it.” He said about 120 households with 600 people are buying this water. “The program aims to push people, especially the poor, to drink safe water. As a result, they improve their standard of living because they do not catch infectious diseases." Bou Sophal, director of Sarika Keo primary school, said New Sprout gives the school a 20-liter bottle for each of its 15 classes each day free of charge. “It helps pupils a lot because some of them come to school with no pocket money and so could not buy drinks. Now that all our pupils do not have to worry about being thirsty, they can concentrate on their studies.” Mon Tao, a 55-year-old villager, praised New Sprout for making available the hygienic water at an affordable price. Previously I had to buy firewood to boil water for drinking. Now I am freed to do other tasks to earn a living.” Another villager, San Kreng, 53, said, “My family previously caught diahorrea often. But now we have safe drinking water.” Sister Gallice, of the Sisters of the Rosary of Pont de Beauvoisin congregation , started New Sprout in 2003. Besides its drinking water project, the association supports rural poor people in getting health examinations, financial support to poor students, and also library and kindergarten programs. CA13683.1646
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