January 12th — RDIC
I think our entire team has a new definition of the word hero — Mickey Sampson. I wasn’t expecting my first hero to look so disarmingly normal, with a shallow southern accent, plain clothes, and a laid-back way of talking to us like we were already friends. Though he has a PhD in Chemistry, a vast knowledge of Cambodia, and some superhuman ability to understand the way people, society, and change work, Mickey spent three hours slowly and deliberately explaining the work of RDIC to our team in ways that we all could understand. I’m not even sure where to begin — this man and his incredible staff do EVERYTHING. Here are just a few examples:
- Creating ceramic water filters that are cheap, made on-site in Cambodia using local materials and easily replaceable. These filters have reduced diarrhea incidence by nearly 50 percent in families that use them. As diarrhea is one of the top causes of deaths in Cambodia, this is a staggering number.
- Creating a recipe to make scabies and lice soap using natural oils that are accessible all over the country using easy technology. Mickey trains local women and spreads the method when he travels, allowing women to make a living off of the soap (which is cheap enough for even poor rural families to buy). Scabies and lice affect the majority of Cambodian children, so this is a HUGE contribution.
- Mickey’s team creates puppet shows and animation shows (of a quality better than Sesame Street, I kid you not) that discuss the importance of hand-washing, healthy eating habits, HIV and AIDS, bird flu safety, and other various topics related to the environment and health. These are shown in classrooms and communities all over the country and will soon be shown nationally.
- Training young Cambodians in computers and high tech mapping programs that are used to track water quality all over the country (which has NEVER been done until RDIC stepped up). Mickey’s working to get these students PhD scholarships in the states and send them to get trained so that Cambodians can get the skills to come back and continue to create their own change. According to Mickey, there are NO Cambodian PhDs in the hard sciences. This is CRITICAL, as so many of the pressing issues for the country center around water quality, health, and nutrition.
- One of the strangest/coolest creations of RDIC is a way of composting animal (and even human!) waste using rice husks which are readily available and prevent smells. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say Mickey’s created one innovative toilet. And to show how serious he is about it, he uses it himself.
There’s a lot I’m missing… water testing, constant innovation with nutrient rich fruits, vegetables and animals, research into well water, rainwater collection, constructing wells for families and communities… what’s so impressive about RDIC is that they are so holistic in their approach. As Mickey points out — water, health, environment, nutrition, education — they are all interrelated. He tackles all of them, succeeding through word of mouth, community respect, and building relationships. RDIC has no bureaucracy, no desire to make proprietary claims on their successes, no false idealism. They are an organization of true multi-tasking DO-ERs, who see problems, innovate ways to fix them, and them let the community decide how good that solution is. There’s no marketing, no brochures publicizing their work; the idea is that good ideas will spread.
I wish I could give a clearer picture of how impressive this group is. The whole organization is a laboratory of positive change. They work out creative ideas in every area of human well-being, innovate to make those ideas better, and then let the community take ownership of those ideas. Nothing comes from a western model, nothing comes from a power-point presentation, nothing comes from a preconceived idea of how society should run other than the idea that we all deserve clean air and water, and a nutritious diet that can be sustained for generations to come.
If that doesn’t sound like a real-life hero to you, come see for yourself. Check out RDIC online for more info at https://www.rdic.org/.