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Ratana's Story of Hope

Ratana's community in Cambodia is threatened by climate change and pollution. But Ratana is determined to build a better future. We’re supporting her do that.

Ratana lives with her family on a boat on the vast Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia – the largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia and home to a million people. 

Many families here rely on fishing to earn a living. But fish stocks have fallen dramatically as a result of pollution, a warming climate and overfishing by commercial trawlers. 

Now local communities are fighting back – with support from Save the Children. 

And Ratana and her friends are leading the way.  

The Power of Learning

She and her friends learned how tackling pollution in the lake is vital to their community’s future from ‘eco lessons’ that Save the Children helped their school introduce. 

“I learned about pollution, deforestation and rubbish,” says Ratana.

A lack of facilities for waste disposal means people throw their rubbish into the lake, polluting the water, depleting fish stocks and in turn, hitting family incomes.

The dirty water also puts children at risk from waterborne diseases.

At school, Ratana and her friends learned how to clean up their environment. It inspired them to start to take things into their own hands by cleaning up the lake – beginning with their morning journey to their floating school.  

“When we row the boat to school, we pick up the rubbish and put it in our boat,” says 12-year-old Ratana. 

Ratana, 12, and her classmates collect rubbish from Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Ratana, 12, and her classmates collect rubbish from Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia


 A biobar, which is used to trap rubbish and prevent it flowing into Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

A biobar, which is used to trap rubbish and prevent it flowing into Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

As well as litter-picking, with the support of our project they’re building ‘biobars’ from old fishing nets and water bottles, which they then place around the lake to prevent waste from entering communities. Local waste collectors remove the rubbish. 

It’s an economical, environmentally friendly and remarkably effective solution. 

“The biobars are very important to the environment,” says Ratana. “There was a lot of rubbish but this year there’s a bit less. I’m very proud to see that people cleaned up and cut down on pollution.”


Ratana and her friends are raising awareness in their community about protecting the environment and tackling climate change. 

“The elderly and adults should listen to children because we are now aware of the environment,” Ratana says.


Save the Children is supporting 40,000 people living on or by the lake. Working with local organisations, we’re helping communities to tackle the impact of climate change and pollution by: 

  • Training families to start green businesses – like floating vegetable gardens to grow produce to sell in the market
  • Developing home-based, affordable, low-tech water purifiers and sanitation systems
  • Repairing schools, training teachers and introducing eco lessons at school.  

Together, we’re giving children like Ratana the chance to take their future into their own hands.

What you can do

You can help future generations of children create lasting change – by leaving a gift to Save the Children in your Will. Please get in touch to find out more.