Meet the HVTO Water Well Drillers
Due to a lack of clean drinking water HVTO provides hand water pumps to families that cannot afford them. In addition we provide pumps for the general community at public schools, meeting halls, pagodas, and health clinics. At the end of 2014 the Clean Water Project had installed nearly 350 wells, in the process reaching nearly 2,500 people. This includes all of the neediest families in the ten villages in Kontreang Commune and wells for 300 people from Rumdeng Village in neighboring Knar Pur Commune where we are now active. For a discussion of water quality please go to the following link:
The ground through which these wells are drilled consists of relatively unconsolidated sediments (sand-silt-clay) that were deposited by ancient rivers that ran (and continue to run) through this tropical environment. This helps provide the area with ample ground water and allows the drill bit to hand-loosen the sediment so that it can be carried away by water that is forced down PVC pipe. Unfortunately, in some areas, where the river was carrying larger rocks, wells can literally hit a stone wall and the drillers must start over. Most wells are drilled to a depth of 25 meters with rudimentary equipment consisting of a water pump, a hose, and PVC pipe with a homemade drilling bit on the bottom and a T-junction on the top that allows the drill string to be hand-rotated. See photo below.
A key benefit of how the HVTO Clean Water Project is organized is that all work is carried out by local men whose families are supported by the installation of these wells. Using villagers allows us to charge significantly less than what is charged by companies working from Siem Reap and keep the money inside the community that we support. Also, because local men are doing the work, they often know the families for whom they are drilling the wells, making maintenance/repair issues easy to address. The quality of our wells is also excellent, with only 8 of the over 300 wells installed since 2009 thus far requiring any kind of repair.
Our drillers share this part-time work and are employed only when donors provide funds. They work on wells as three-man teams with each usually taking from 2-3 days to complete. However, for wells that hit rocks before the required depth is reached the time necessary can be much longer. For this work they earn $5 per day and, depending on the number of wells that they are able to drill, can earn about $300 over the course of a year.
The men described below are part of the first post-Khmer Rouge generation and they and their families are a ‘slice of life’ from the rural Cambodian community that we serve. All of them are subsistence farmers that have supplemented their income with heavy manual labor that began in childhood. Combined with poor nutrition and bad water, the state of health for these men is far below that of westerners. Although none have made it past the eighth grade, they recognize the positive changes that are now taking place and very much want to give their children the opportunities that they were denied. Through HVTO this includes both access to education and clean water.
Drilling a water well in Cambodia.
 Let’s meet the drillers.
Nhem Nhan
Nhem Nhan (left) with his two boys, local HVTO coordinator Kimsang, and HVTO (USA) Chairman Patti Baker.
Nhem is from Sreth Village and is the youngest of eight siblings. He dropped out of school in the 8th grade to help his parents, who are now dead, to grow rice. He is married and has two boys that are 12 and 8, both of whom go to the HVTO School in Sophy Village. His oldest boy, Nhan Pangha, has been sponsored by the Cokkinis Estate through HVTO since June 2014. He and his wife are both surprised and grateful that a foreigner, whom they have never met, would be willing to help them and their family. They are very happy that their children are able to go to school and will have a chance for a better life.
Nhem was hired to help dig HVTO wells in 2010 and at 40 years is the oldest driller. Unfortunately, he now has back problems that have recently become more serious and this may force him to quit doing this type of work. With his earnings from well-drilling he has bought 10 piglets and plans to breed and sell them to supplement the family income. If this plan works he would eventually like to replace his beat-up 2001 Honda motorbike.
Noeurm Nart
Noeurm Nart with his wife and baby daughter.
Nart is from Sophy Village, is 30 years old and is the fourth of six children, with three brothers and two sisters. Because his parents died when he was only three years old he was raised by his older brothers and sister. He has been married now for a little over a year and has a daughter that is one year old. Exposure to western medicine has brought a knowledge of birth control to Nart and many other people of the village, and he and his wife have decided that they would like to have just one more child.
Nart never had the opportunity to go to school because he was always very sick, and even now he continues to have severe stomach issues. His primary occupation, like so many others, is farming. In addition to growing rice and vegetables he raises chickens, ducks, and two cattle from which he can sell the calves to earn extra money. Nart and his wife are very happy to have income from well drilling and hope to send both of their children to the HVTO school and possible sponsorship at a later date.
Kouy Khear
Kouy Khear in front of his home with his family.
Khear is 30 years old and was only able to complete the fifth grade. At age 12 he became a Buddhist monk and lived in the pagoda for two years. He has a wife and two children; an 8 year-old girl and a 7 year-old boy. He is unusual in the fact that his mother is still alive and living in Sophy Village. Before becoming an HVTO well digger he earned outside money for his family as a brick-layer in Siem Reap.
Like everyone, Khear and his wife grow rice and also catch fish when the lake floods. He has been working for the last six years as an HVTO driller, during which time he has been trained in every aspect of the drilling operation. For this reason when wells need to be re-drilled due to rocks or more than one needs to be drilled at a time Khear acts as the foreman on the second well. He really likes this job because it saves him money for transport and he no longer needs to make the dangerous commute to Siem Reap that he made as a brick-layer. This gives him more time to help at home and be with his family. 
Pha Pann
Pha Pann with his two daughters in front of their home.
Like Khear, Pann is also 30 years old and dropped out of school in the fifth grade. Prior to becoming an HVTO well-digger he began his working life as a brick-layer building hotels and restaurants in Siem Reap. He married a girl from Sophy Village and has two daughters, age 9 and 6, that both now attend the HVTO School.
Pann is able to work, but he has many health problems and sees the village medicine man to treat persistent fevers, headaches and dizziness. He prefers well work because this allows him to be home more to help his family raise rice and vegetables. By selling some of what they grow on their 20 x 15 meter field Pann and his family can earn about $90 per year to supplement his drilling income.
Chhung Chhaiy
Chhaiy is 31 years old and lives in his wife’s family home. He was married in 2009, but they have decided to delay having children. He and his older brother Chhung Chharn, who also works as a well digger, have four sisters. He dropped out of school after the 6th grade because he had trouble understanding what the teachers were teaching and could not do the homework.
Except for well drilling Chhaiy has never worked anywhere except helping his parents farm their land. To earn extra income two to three times per year he gathers vegetables from some of the other village farmers and takes them to the market in Siem Reap to sell.  He started well digging in 2010 and likes it because he can work in the village close to home and not have to risk getting on the infamous road to Siem Reap.  
Chhung Chharn
Chhung Chharn at his parent’s home.
Chharn is the younger brother of Chhung Chhaiy and lives with his parents, who are in their late-50s, helping them farm the family land. He is 29 years old and dropped out of school in the 5th grade. Chharn is married, but unfortunately is getting a divorce from his wife with whom he has a one year old son.
Previously Chharn worked in Siem Reap as a laborer for $2 per day, but is now very happy that he can work in the village. Like the other drillers, this gives him more time at home and keeps him off of the Kontreang - Siem Reap highway. He began working for HVTO digging wells in 2011 and now has a lot experience with this type of work. He is very grateful that his young son will have more opportunities to better himself than either he or his wife.
Sim Sam
Sim Sam (driving) with Pann and Khear traveling to the next job.
Sam is the boss of the HVTO well drillers. He is 30 years old and dropped out of school in the 6th grade to become a monk for the following two years. He is married with two boys that are 5 and 3 years old.  He is the second oldest in his family with a brother and a sister, but both parents are dead. Like everyone else in the village he grows rice when he is not earning outside money.
Sam began working as a laborer in Thailand, but in 2005 got a job as a well driller where he learned all aspects of the trade. He manages the HVTO drillers and divides the work among them. Being by far the most knowledgeable man in the village, for most wells he supervises the work with the help of two others. He buys and maintains all of the equipment and has agreed to guarantee the completed wells for one year. The workers all receive a flat $5 per day and Sam absorbs any cost overruns that may occur due to equipment breakdown/replacement or wells that may take longer to complete due to difficult drilling. More than anyone else, Sam is responsible for the operational success that HVTO has enjoyed in our Clean Water Project.
Rorn Chheat
Rorn Chheat with his family and his new HVTO well.
Chheat is a 34-year old subsistence farmer and has been an HVTO driller since 2012. Among the poorest of the poor in Sophy Village, his wife is also burdened with a congenital spinal defect. This caused great concern when their children, Chhin and Lyta, were born. However, they are two very bright and healthy children that, despite their young age, were generously sponsored through university in 2014 by the Khmer-American Seng Kaing family. Rorn and his wife are both illiterate, but are thrilled at the opportunities that their children now have through HVTO.

Mr. Soeum Sung
Soeum Sung on the job.
Sung is 34 years old and lives in Sophy Village with his wife and their three children. Their eldest daughter Kong is a 16 year-old aspiring doctor that was sponsored in 2012 by Helen J. Forster from the USA. He became an HVTO well digger in 2013 where he specializes in the construction of the concrete platforms. When he is not farming his land or helping with the wells Soeum works as a laborer in Siem Reap in the construction industry.

Tay Tonn Tay Tonn drilling.
Tonn is 33 years old and has been an HVTO well digger since 2013. He is married and has two children. His family lives next door to HVTO driller Sung Soeum with whom he shares a water pump.
Tann Vanna
Tann Vanna working on a concrete base.
The men that work on the HVTO wells come and go as job prospects change, and none of those that have moved on are included here. However, Vanna deserves special mention because he, along with Sim Sam, worked for years in the same private water drilling company. Together they used their experience to get the HVTO drilling program off the ground. Vanna left us in 2013 to begin working for a construction company in another Cambodian province.
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