Spreading health, happiness and lucky iron fish with the Song Saa Foundation

Established in 2012, the Song Saa Foundation works to protect the fragile and beautiful environment of Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago; supporting the village communities that call this remote island chain home. Through regular medical outreach and bi-monthly Boat of Hope missions, educational workshops and community partnerships, the Foundation strives to improve the health and happiness of local families, whilst helping them to protect the island ecosystem.

The Foundation regularly partners with other philanthropic organisations to extend their reach and bring benefits to the lives of local residents. An exciting new collaboration for 2016is the ongoing partnership with Lucky Iron Fish, an incredibly inspiring and worthy organisation established four years ago to tackle the high rates of iron deficiency in Cambodia.


The idea for Lucky Iron Fish came from a PhD student in Canada – Dr Christopher Charles – who discovered that adding a cast iron ingot to a pot whilst boiling water or cooking rice could provide up to 90% of the recommended daily dose of iron, a potentially life changing discovery in a country where 44% of residents suffer the symptoms of being deficient in iron. He worked to encourage use of the ingots in Cambodia, but communities were put off by what they saw as adding scrap metal to their food. A rethink of the design saw the creation of the first Lucky Iron Fish: by casting the iron into the shape of a smiling fish – a symbol of luck in many Asian countries including Cambodia – he saw compliance rates increase from 2% to 92%, capturing the imagination of children and adults alike.

Lydia Summerlee - Lucky Iron Fish

Four years on, the first Lucky Iron Fish have arrived in the Koh Rong Archipelago. They are working alongside the Song Saa Foundation to distribute iron fish to families in need throughout the island chain, as well as providing educational workshops and hosting a three-day Lucky Iron Fish team visit.

Lydia Summerlee - Lucky Iron Fish

“The ability [of the Song Saa Foundation] to help integrate the fish into the lives of the people in the Koh Rong archipelago without interfering in their way of life, has given us a very unique opportunity to get a fish in every pot that needs it” – Gavin Armstrong, Lucky Iron Fish, Founder and CEO.

“At the Song Saa Foundation, we’re proud to be partnering with the fantastic team at Lucky Iron Fish to fight iron deficiency in our local communities. Sometimes the simplest ideas can make the biggest impact. The Lucky Iron Fish is a shining example of an affordable way to improve lives immeasurably” – Ben Thorne, Song Saa Foundation, Project Director

Lydia Summerlee - Lucky Iron Fish

So far in 2016, the teams have collaborated on a number of Boat of Hope missions, reaching some of the most remote island communities. They have spent time in the far-flung villages of Daem Thkov and Sok San, distributing Lucky Iron Fish and delivering educational workshops. To date, the team have reached over 80 families, teaching them about health, dental care and the importance of iron-rich diets.

Lydia Summerlee - Lucky Iron Fish

Moving forwards, the partnership looks set to continue. The Song Saa Foundation and Lucky Iron Fish teams plan to distribute 550 iron fish and deliver 12 educational workshops to local residents this year, spreading their message and having a truly positive impact upon the health and happiness of residents all across the Koh Rong archipelago.

Lydia Summerlee - Lucky Iron Fish

“I am a strong believer that businesses have the power to solve some of the world’s most daunting challenges, and the Lucky Iron Fish embodies this with our commitment to improving global health in a socially responsible way.” – Gavin Armstrong, Lucky Iron Fish, Founder and CEO

Images – Lydia Summerlee, Lucky Iron Fish