Thursday, January 23, 2014

Japanese Pop Star Ai Kawashima at UNICEF Cambodia

Ai Kawashima with students of Baprey Primary School
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Bona
Famous Japanese singer Ms. Ai Kawashima recently paid a visit to a UNICEF-supported water, sanitation and hygiene project in Cambodia.

Together with Mr. Motoo Tomomura, secretary general of AEON 1% Club, she visited the Baprey Primary School in the province of Prey Veng, to learn more about UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme. The Japanese AEON Group and Ms. Kawashima support UNICEF in providing schools with water supply units and systems. For the singer, this is a matter close to her heart. She made the children very happy by singing a song with them.

Ai Kawashima in front of the school’s new rainwater harvesting tank, which provides the children with clean water.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Bona
In the school, the delegation got a chance to observe how, with the help of UNICEF and AEON, the students now have access to clean water that is free of arsenic. Arsenic is a poisonous chemical element that is found in high percentages in water in some areas of the country. Too much arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidneys, skin lesions and changes in pigmentation. UNICEF supports the government in detecting sources of contaminated water and helps to provide alternative water systems. 
At Baprey Primary School, children don’t have to use polluted water from the river anymore, thanks to their new rainwater harvesting tank.

Students teach Ms. Kawashima how to wash her hands properly
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Bona
UNICEF’s work in schools also includes the promotion of important hygiene behaviour, like hand washing. Washing hands with soap can reduce the risk of severe diseases like diarrhoea by more than 40 per cent. The children were proud to demonstrate Ms. Kawashima how to wash hands properly. The pop star was noticeably impressed with the performance.

 The children demonstrate how they used to collect water before
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Bona 
The benefits of the new water system were especially obvious when the children demonstrated how they used to collect water from the river before. The colour of the water speaks volumes.

Baprey school’s principal expresses his appreciation to AEON’s Mr. Motoo Tomomura (third from right) and Ai Kawashima
© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Bona
At the end of the visit the students showed their appreciation to AEON’s representatives by presenting dozens of self-made Japanese flags. Mr. Tomomura was pleased with the visit and visibly moved by the students’ gesture. Watching the children play with footballs and frisbees provided as gifts from the visiting mission, he said: “In the end, it is the smile of the child that makes all the difference.”

By Jasper Neerdaels

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