Helping relocated families to get back on track

How CUFA are supporting Cambodian families displaced by the rehabilitation of the Cambodian railway line.

Since late 2012 CUFA has been providing communities relocated as part of a major Cambodian railways project with much needed financial literacy training.  The program, known as ‘Reaching an Independent Economic Life’ (RIEL) is funded by the Australian Aid Program and is an important step to help build economic independence for relocated families.

The railway project involves rebuilding the railway line and linking the capital, Phnom Penh to the main port in the south, Sihanoukville, and up to the Thai border. About 4,000 families who were living close to or on the railway tracks have been affected by the rail construction and 1,000 of these needed to be relocated to make the rebuilding possible.

RIEL is one of several programs created to improve the living standards and lives of those that have been relocated as part of the project.

The goal of RIEL is to increase the financial skills of relocated families, so that they will be in a better position to invest in their businesses, manage their finances, pay debts and make more sound financial decisions in the future.

Over the past two years CUFA has provided approximately 400 families with training in seven core components: understanding financial concepts, family budgeting, sensible borrowing or managing debt repayments, setting and achieving financial goals, micro-business development, financial budgeting, spending and savings and children’s financial literacy.

Under the project our staff deliver one-to-one financial counselling sessions, operate a financial helpline and deliver training courses, explains CUFA’s International Project Supervisor, Kundi Lay.

“Families are learning more about how to manage their debt repayments and are starting to set themselves realistic financial goals. As a result of the training we’ve seen over the past year 76% of families reduce their debt levels and 94% of families preparing a household budget”, explains Kundi.

To provide additional support and guidance to the self-help groups within the resettlement communities CUFA was invited by the Asian Development Bank in late December 2014 to deliver specialising accounting (bookkeeping and financial report) training to group leaders to assist their groups to have better operational standards and practices.

Fourteen self-help leaders from resettlement communities in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Pursat, Battambang and Poi Pet  participated in the four day workshop held in Siem Reap.

“I travelled 13 hours each way to attend the workshop” explains 66 year old, Mr. Sarueon Chhe, a self-help group leader of the Sihanoukville Resettlement Site. “It was worth travelling so far. I think the training was very useful because I learnt new knowledge about the operation and management of [our communities] savings group, received help on how to prepare my group’s yearly action plan and meet savings bank leaders from other areas”.

Like many of the saving bank leaders from the other resettlement sites, Sarueon’s group faces many challenges and the workshop was an opportunity to share ideas about similar difficulties faced by households  in other resettlement sites and to brainstorm ideas on how to overcome these problems.

Sarueon explains that many of the affected communities can’t read or write and most, before being supported under RIEL project, had no previous training in financial literacy.  “One of the biggest challenges my group faces is bookkeeping and how to prepare financial reports. These are new skills for us, and the workshop was an opportunity to ask lots of questions and to receive individual support from the trainers”.

“I am delighted I had the opportunity to attend this training. I’ve made new friends who I can call for support when my group faces challenges and I also had the opportunity to build my confidence with public speaking and I learnt new teaching techniques such as role plays, group work and presentations. I’m excited to go back to my group and share my new skills with them. I think it’s really going to help us”.

Besides learning more about financial literacy, the workshop was an opportunity for Sarueon and the other leaders to learn more about their own country, visiting the majestic Angkor Wat.  “I’m 66 years and from Cambodia, but this was the first time I had the chance to visit this wonder of my country, it really was amazing, and for me, a big highlight of my trip. I don’t know how to describe my feelings, it is so beautiful and I’m very lucky to have to chance to come here”.


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