By Chanratana Som, CUFA Cambodia Country Program Manager
“I felt like I was dreaming but it was real; I got business support and my hope would be realized”.
An ancient Khmer proverb says “a single mother can successfully raise 10 children; but 10 children cannot successfully support a mother.” Every single Cambodian has heard about it. The saying definitely highlights an important role of a mother in supporting and managing her entire family.
Cambodian people have been using this word to remind their children of expressing gratitude and paying proper attention to their parents, and how hard a mother devotes herself for the sake of raising her own children. In this article, let us see how a 37-year old widow of two children does for her children; what have been her up and down moments in taking care of her young kids, and what her expectations are.
Chhut Saleab is a single mother of two children – a girl of eight and a boy of six years old respectively, living in Tavak commune of Kampong Chhnang province. She has been a widow for seven years since she was pregnant with her second child. Although life has not treated her well, she has always been too busy to think of giving up hope.
“Although poor, I am fortunate enough to have my kids around and walk with me all the time,” said Saleab. Several years ago, like most people in her community, she had been working on her small rice paddy and growing vegetables in her home yard to support her daily living. Though she made herself a hard-working mother, what had been earned by a single breadwinner had never been enough to spare for her kids education. Having a plan for education of her two kids, Saleab opened a saving account with Tavak Credit Union in 2007 and tried to save up regularly.
Before joining the VE program in 2011, this family had faced a lot of financial downturn when it came to basic need issues such as health, food, clothes, education, and shelter. “I was so upset that I could not afford healthy food and proper clothes for my kids; I was also very worried about their health and how I could handle it,” Saleab elaborated. However, her plan and serious commitment has finally been rewarded since she was selected as a VE. “I felt like I was dreaming but it was real; I got business support and my hope would be realized,” expressed Saleab.
In March 2011, Saleab started her first business support by running a small grocery stall, then raising a pig and growing more vegetables at home. Just recently, she has successfully graduated from VE program. Through her commitment and skills she has earned over the period of engagement with VE, she currently manages to raise four pigs and earns about USD 200 per quarter, could afford schooling and materials for her kids, increase her monthly saving from USD1 to average of USD5, and build a wooden house. At the moment, this family is able to afford attending some social and community events such as weddings, religious and ceremonies.
“My greatest moment is having enough food for my children and seeing them go to school,” said Saleab. “My kids are good, they are very helpful,” she added. Her two children love her very much; a girl wants to become a teacher and the boy wants to be a business person so that they would be able to support and take care of their mother.