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International women’s day: Gray Po’s story and how she helped to bring clean water to her village

In a project managed by Malteser International in northern Thailand villagers live a healthier life

Thailand, 7 March 2014

Gray Po in her village in northern Thailand

Gray Po in her village in northern Thailand

My name is Gray Po. I was born in No Pa Poo. It’s a little
village in northwest Thailand. I’ve lived here all my life. I own a small grocery store. From that income, I have to take care of three children. My husband died several years ago, so I manage my household by myself.

Two years ago, the international relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Malteser International, came to my village to help us
improve our living conditions. They even came during rainy season, when access is limited. That is when I thought: they must really want to help my village.

As I wanted to help improve our community too, I joined the
“WASH committee” they created to be responsible for the water, sanitation and hygiene projects in our village. We had two urgent projects: the protection of our water source and the construction of latrines. We had discussed these for many years but we didn’t know how to organise them – no knowledge and no resources.

As a result, lots of changes have happened to me and our little village. We finally have plenty of clean water to drink.

Before now, I had to walk up a hill to a water tap that I shared with two other households. Often I had to go there at least three times
a day – and more if I had to feed my pigs or do laundry. I carried the water in hollow bamboo trunks in a bag on my back. It was very heavy, and I was in pain every evening. The water was dirty –but I drank it anyway as I didn’t know I had a choice.

Malteser International explained that the water source we were using was open and not protected. Now we’ve built a fence around the area, covered the water source and installed pipes to our houses. So I just have to turn on the tap at home and clean water flows out!

The new latrines were also a big improvement to our lives. Before, we all had to walk to the nearby forest. Often people were bitten by
mosquitoes or even snakes. In the rainy season, when the ground is slippery, I fell many times. But now, I have a roofed latrine next to my house just for me and my children.

But biggest change is the knowledge I have gained through the Order of Malta. We always struggled  with diseases such as diarrhorea. We didn’t know how they occurred and how to prevent them. I have learned a lot about hygiene and health, such as washing hands, boiling the water before drinking, and covering the food. We haven’t had another case of diarrhoea in our house since.

I am very proud I contributed to these changes. During the campaigns, I cooked for my neighbours who installed the pipelines and also helped carry pipes, rocks and sand to protect the spring. Our new project, managed by the villagers, is to equip every house with electricity.

Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. With over 100 projects annually in some 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, Malteser International has been standing by those affected by poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, helping them lead a healthy life with dignity – without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles build the foundation of its work. For more information: and

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.