mercredi, novembre 28, 2007

Chay Lo Saved from Water

News from Cambodia


- Photo Aurélia Frey pour « Le Monde »

Unofficial translation from french made by Khemara Jati

The life gave several chances to this son of Cambodian farmers. He seized them all. Thanks to him, the water stops killing in certain villages of Cambodia. He has just received an international price.

1976: Born to Thropaing Tmor (the North of Cambodia).
1996: Operated immediately in France for a tumor in the lung.
1997: Admitted to the technological Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
2003: Admitted to the National School of the Rural Genius and Waters and Forests (ENGREF) in Paris.
2004: Cofounder of “1001 fountains for tomorrow”.
2007: Prize-winner of the price of the International Junior Chamber.

Funny place for a meeting with Chay Lo. In this brewery of the district of Madeleine in Paris, chosen as of the photo's requirements, the plate of seafood costs more than two months of an average wage in Cambodia. One needs more to disrupt the smile shining with this Cambodian of poor origin who obtained the engineering degree of Waters and Forests in France. Chay Lo, several times miraculously cured, always smiles.

The discreet young man reaches the light for his exceptional route: co-founder of the association called “1001 fountains for tomorrow”, who develops small stations of water's purification in the Cambodian villages, he received the price of the International Junior Chamber (IJC), on Tuesday, November 6th, at Antalya, in Turkey. He rewards every year « 10 young people among the most remarkable of the planet ».

His life, nevertheless, would have been able to - would have owed - to end brutally eleven years ago. In one thousand places of Phnom Penh, in his shop of the street Auguste-Comte in Lyon, Mine Dumas, antique dealer specialized in gold-coloured wood of the XVIIIth century, receives then a very urgent phone call: « Find me fast a surgeon to save a boy who has the lung crushed by a tumor. He cannot live and we cannot operate him here, I arrange for the visa », says to his niece, Virginia Legrand, volunteer of the humanitarian association Children of the Mekong.

Some days and thousand harassments later, Chay Lo is operated in the cardiological Centre of the North, in Saint-Denis. The professor Bernard Andreassian takes out of his lungs a tumor - not cancer patient - of 5 kilos. The days which he crosses between the life and the death seem endless to his good fairies. They organize finally his convalescence in France, in the family of the doctor Patricia Labourier, the French doctor who based the association “Help the Cambodian children”.

This pain in lungs, which tormented him coasts and back, Chay Lo supported it silently for years: in this family of 5 children, the care are out of reach. His mother brings up silkworms and weaves scarfs, his father runs 2 hectares of rice field. Nothing to feed everybody either, nor to study. Lo received from his father the same advice as all the poor children: « if you want to study, go to the pagoda. » Accommodated by a woman bigwig in the pagoda of Sisophon, he follows the classes with ease and makes a success his high school.

During his first one from feet to nose of the death, Chay Lo was 12 years old: “I kept the cows of my father and they crossed the river. I followed them. I did not know how to swim.” A friend saved him as he poured sheer. “It is what explains his panic fear of water”, tells his godmother, Mine Dumas, who accompanied him in sessions of swimming, to re-educate his lungs...

Brilliant, Chay Lo was allowed in most great school of the country, the Technological Institute of Cambodia (TIC), where he specialized in the management of the water. Taken out second, while a scholarship of the government allows only the first one to pursue studies abroad, he is again fished up. The network of his French friends helps him to continue his programme at the National School of the Rural Genius and the Waters and the Forests (ENGREF) in Paris and in Montpelier. His tenacity, his imagination and the other happy fates made the rest.

At her friend Virginia Legrand, he meets François Jaquenoud, a former partner of Andersen Consulting. All three evoke the muddy water of puddles and Cambodian rivers which the villagers are reduced to drink. Their bacteria kill children by thousands. “Is there no means to cleanse this water?”, asks Chay Lo. The father of Virginia, engineer, invented for a German family, which produces some goat's milk cheese in the Drôme, a system of filtration of the spring water by ultraviolet, fed by sun panels. But the device, which the small group leaves to observe on the spot, cannot be used as it is. Its adaptation will be the object of the report of the end of Chay Lo's study. “What he finalized, is a true progress in the treatment of the drinking water, with modules easy to realize and to run”, says, admiring, Gillian Cadic, teacher in ENGREF in Montpelier. “He has a lot of determination in his projects, but he is almost too discreet. He asked us absolutely nothing », he observes.

Nevertheless France has changed him, pushing aside his discretion and his reserve: “ in Cambodia, we do not speak, and not about oneself. We have a lot of respect for important and rich people. A lot of courage is needed to knock in their door”, he explains. He feels “more comfortable” since he came in France. “He began speaking since he made Waters and Forests. He writes things on him, now. But he never complained of whatever it is”, shows his godmother, who attended, moved, in her marriage last year in Cambodia. “I am extremely proud, because he took something to us, it is not to be allowed destabilize by the problems. It goes against a certain fatalism as we find in his country”, concludes Virginia Legrand.

The sweetness remains. “We do not say things frontally in Cambodia, one should not lose the face. In villages, Lo knows how to say things to the cambodian style, by way of a third person for example. He explains and re-explains patiently”, tells Marie Yen, a French ingénieure, a volunteer of “1001 fountains for tomorrow”, which comes back from one year stay in Cambodia. Today, the association settled 11 stations, among which each supplies the drinking water for 1 000 to 1 500 persons. A family becomes the installation's operator and the villagers buy the pure water for less than one penny of the dollar the liter. Chay Lo, by taking the reins of the project in Cambodia, refused much more tempting of the NGO's propositions better endowed, or big French companies. He collects 500 dollars a month. “He could make fortune, but he considers that, if he arrived there, it is that he was helped”, shows François Jaquenoud.

Since the childhood, it is convinced that he owes “to help poor people rather than to work that with the rich one.” Chay Lo asks: “if everybody is interested only in the big companies, who is going to help people in the rural zones?” A way of returning, with the smile, which was given to him.

Adrien de Tricornot

Posted by Khemara Jati
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