In 2015, after 14 years of working in a garment factory in the village of Thmor Pean, Cambodia, 33-year-old Sreypoa Sin, stopped work to take care of her children. The family became soley dependent upon her woodcutter husband’s daily income which they found was barely enough to provide for their family.
This dire situation motivated her to start a new business – making Khmer cakes (Ansorm) with a start-up amount of 30,000 riels (approximately $10.85) providing her with a modest income.
In 2018, Sreypoa was selected to be a beneficiary of Cufa’s Livelihood Enhancement for Economic Development (LEED) program and received seed support from the project under Cufa’s operation. Since the project commenced, she has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise training and received business improvement consultations. After intensively working on her business plan, being trained on marketing strategy and provided with seed support (a sack of glutinous rice, white sugar, green bean, and a box of red bull) Sreypoa has seen a rapid increase in her business.
Nowadays, Sreypoa has contracted five customers, a mixture of wholesalers and retailers. Her cakes are in high demand which has seen sales increased by 400%. She can use up 100kg of glutinous rice per week, producing a large number of cakes to meet the demand.
Motivated by big sales and looking for a potential location, she ambitiously created a grocery store after receiving seed support and gaining enough confidence from the training to explore another business opportunity to provide additional income for her family.
The program also taught Sreypoa how to manage her income to cater for daily expenses and this has enabled her to reinvest in her business and save some money.
Applying the knowledge and skills gained from the LEED program training has greatly assisted in Sreypoa growing her business and her income. The result of which has improved her family’s living conditions. Sreypoa’s neighbours have been watching her success and are they too are now interesting in the program.
Sreypoa thanked Cufa for the significant support both with materials and skills. She said of the program, “Hope is the zest of life and I hope to improve my business in the future”.
Raksmey Yors is 9 years old girl who lives in the Cambodian village of Sam Lie with her parents and two brothers. Raksmey said she used to spend all her pocket money and never thought of saving any of it as she did not understand the value of money or the importance of saving. This was until she participated in Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) Program at the local school, after which, she realised what a difference saving money could do for her now and for her future.
It was just over 8 months ago, in December 2018, when the local Cufa Project Officer visited Raksmey school to teach the young students about financial literacy. The CFL program is integrated into the regular school curriculum and encourages students to develop lifelong savings habits at an early age. The program utilises a custom-designed interactive app, which is in the local language on a tablet, provided by Cufa. Technology is combined with a story book about Ronnie Riel’s adventures and a lesson book illustrating the importance of saving to best engage the students to learn and reinforce the valuable learnings.
After her lessons, Raksmey realised that she could start to save her pocket money so that she could buy a bike. Not only did Raksmey realise what she could buy for today but at such a young age she thought about her future and saving to help her achieve her goal of being a nurse. So excited was she about the potential that she shared these learnings with her parents, and they bought her a piggy bank to help her save.
Raksmey has been so motivated by the learnings that she has shared the Ronnie Riel’s stories with her cousins and her parents. Raksmey continue to put money that her older brother, who works in a garment factory, and her parents give to her, in her piggy bank.
We look forward to sharing more about Raksmey’s journey in future newsletters.
These are some of the results we have produced in the past 3 years of this valuable, life changing program
Read more about Cufa’s Children’s Financial Literacy Program and how you can assist us in building a future for children.
Cufa, with support from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, has been running a project with the specific focus of strengthening Cambodian women’s voices and encouraging participation within communities.
The project, Women Empowerment and Engagement in Democracy, has been formed through our Credit Union Development project and extensive experience working in rural Cambodia has assisted us in the project’s implementation. It has been delivered across 21 villages in four provinces and measures the participation rates of women in organisations such as credit unions and village committees. The results have seen a higher participation rate and deeper engagement for women within communities. This will enable women to gain skills in areas such as public speaking and create a platform for networking, both within and across rural communities.
The project covers four key topic areas:
- Benefits of community engagement
- Confidence building
- Public speaking
- Women’s networking forums
Romam Ki (pictured right) is a 25-year-old farmer living in the Ratanakiri Province in rural Cambodia with her husband and three children. Cufa spoke with her recently about her experiences in the project so far!
“I was incredibly excited upon hearing that this project was being implemented in my community! I am very appreciative of this female empowerment project and I have been able to learn, along with others in my community, how women’s rights work in a democracy.”
Initially, Romam was extremely scared of public speaking and even writing in a public meeting. She did not feel comfortable in environments of more than 10 people. However, after participating in the project she had an unexpected change in attitude.
Her family told her, “You are a woman, you should stay at home to take care of your family.” Additionally, her husband also asked, “What benefit did you get from the project? How much money will you make? Why are you participating?”
Romam continued to tell people “I want to change my life and build my confidence. From this project, I can learn about the realities of life and develop my opinions and attitudes.”
After participating in various meetings and training with Cufa she began to learn and she highlighted capacity development as an area that she enjoyed, helping her increase her ability, be brave, confident and build experience. She was able to share her knowledge and experience as well. She began to understand more about the problems of women in her community and how to solve them.
One day Romam was selected by the local authority to be a female activist in her community.
“This made me very happy as I was selected for such a position and the project has helped me empower my life.”
She had to say of her involvement, “I would like to thank Cufa Cambodia and the UK Embassy in Phnom Penh for starting this project in my community. I am extremely happy to be increasing my confidence and ability to share knowledge within the community. I hope Cufa will continue to support the community and other women who have not participated in the project.”
Chenda Yet is 51 years old and lives in Srae Uk Village, Kampong Chhnang Province. Chenda dropped out of school during grade eight to help her parents with rice farming and also due to the financial situation of their family. Married in 1991, she has four sons. In addition to rice farming, she also raises chickens to earn more income while her husband works building houses. However, her income is still very low and not enough for her whole family. That was until she joined Cufa's LEED program.
Chenda’s business, a chicken farm, began without having a business plan and was not doing well. She first raised them traditionally as a family with five hen species. After attending the training, her idea had completely changed and she started building her chicken coop, sized 4m X 5m.
With her frequent involvement in the program, she has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise training and received consultations on how to improve her business. After developing a business plan with the help of Cufa staff, Chenda was trained on market strategy and provided materials and chickens for raising. Until now, Chenda has totally raised 200 chickens.
Her business grows steadily and as a result, in March 2019 she had 40 chickens for food for her daughter’s wedding that cost an estimated 832,000 riels ($208). Since her business has significantly improved, her living conditions have also gradually improved. Her neighbour is also very interested in learning from her business success and she has shared knowledge with five people in her village.
Chenda now has enough confidence after learning life-changing skills in the program and is looking at building another, larger business in the future. She would like to increase how many chickens she is raising and grow more vegetables for her family’s food consumption.
Last but not least, Chenda is very thankful for the program and the significant support providing materials, chicken seed and also business skills.
Chanvicheka Sek or Vicheka as her friends know her is a ten years old girl living in the Svay Rieng Province of Cambodia. She wants to be a doctor in the future and is very serious about her education thanks to Cufa's Children's Financial Literacy program. Nowadays, she lives with her grandparents and brother while her parents work in Phnom Penh. Her father works as a Tuk Tuk driver and her mother works in a garment factory. Her father comes home during the harvesting season for their family’s farming activities, but her mother only comes back during special occasions such Khmer New Year.
Vicheka is lucky enough to get a small amount of pocket money daily from her grandmother which she often used to spend on candy, toys, food or other things. She did not know how difficult it was for her grandmother to earn that money that was given. Both Vicheka and her grandparents depend on the money that her parents earn in Phnom Penh.
Before attending the Children’s Financial Literacy program, Vicheka did not know about developing savings habits and her grandmother would always tell her, “I don’t have much money, so I give her around 500 or 1000 riel ($0.18-0.35) per day,” she said. “I am 69 now and can’t work, we depend on Vicheka’s parents who regularly transfer money for us,” she continued. When Vicheka gets money for school she spends all of it because she views it as such a small amount of money and some of her friends spend much more than her so she never bothered saving it.
A few years ago, Vicheka received financial literacy training from Cufa through her schooling. After attending the program, she started saving some of her money in a piggy bank and told her grandparents, “It is important to save some of our money so we can use it in case of an emergency.” After this, Vicheka also went to open a savings account with her local community-owned bank. Her grandfather, who already had an account, was more than happy to help her.
Now Vicheka manages to save around 5,000 riel ($1.75) each month and all up has around 90,000 riel ($31.65) saved. Every day after school she helps her grandmother to wash dishes and clothes. She works hard with her study. She spends her free time reading books. She would like to finish high school and become a doctor and she hopes her savings could help her achieve her goal.
As we reported on last month, earlier in the year Cufa hosted some staff members from Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), one of our biggest supporters, to participate in a study trip. The trip comprised of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and meeting some of the participants whose lives have been changed for the better.
The trip was action-packed and started off by learning about some of the history of Cambodia with visits to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). Once there was a general understanding of the need for Cufa’s work, Cufa staff showed them around some of the projects. These included the Children’s Financial Literacy program where they were able to see classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visit and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The latter days were more hands-on as TMB staff were able to interact with the kids of the Children’s Financial Literacy program, discuss financial concepts and products in the village banks or just listen to some of the amazing stories.
Like all amazing trips, it had to come to an end eventually and all of the Cufa staff involved were grateful to have been able to host the group.
We caught up with some of the TMB staff and this is what they had to say of their time in Cambodia…
Jade Coleman - Business Relationship Manager
"I really wanted to see firsthand how Teachers Mutual Bank’s funds donated to Cufa help and benefit people’s lives in poor communities. Often you hear about it but to see it in real life is a wonderful opportunity and I was so grateful to have been selected by my employer."
Trent Bennett – Systems Accountant
"Because of my accounting background, I found the Credit Union Development project the most fascinating. I was really inspired by the encounters I had with the savings bank staff and volunteers and the follow-up conversations with Cufa staff afterwards. I was impressed by the slow-burn efforts of Cufa in villages to communicate and educate villagers about a radical new concept - placing your savings into the custody of a bank. I’d forgotten how radical that concept is. I was inspired by Cufa’s conviction and the part that these customer-owned savings banks have to play in ending poverty. How audacious to believe that the fortunes of Cambodia and its people can be shaped, one savings account at a time! But it’s begun, and I see signs that it’s working. For me, that was so very inspiring."
Joyce Tuioti – Supervisor - Credit Control
"Cambodia was more beautiful then I had expected. I loved meeting the people and visiting the schools. The tours were very informative and very emotional, but I loved it. The Village Entrepreneur program was the most interesting for me because it showed that people require assistance through sponsorship and donations which makes a real difference in people’s lives. We were happy to see their village in practice and appreciated what they shared with us, things like the pottery, vegetable farms, shops etc."
Earlier this year Cufa hosted staff from one of our biggest supporters, Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB), over in Cambodia to participate in a study tour. The tour comprised of four days full of activities that varied from cultural and historical activities to visiting our projects and learning about some of the participant's amazing stories.
The trip began with learning about the dark history of Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields and Toul Sleng (Genocide Museum). This helped everyone gather a greater level of understanding of how Cambodia’s development as a country has been shaped and the need for Cufa’s work. Following a break and lunch, everyone dived straight in with visits to a variety of Cufa’s projects such as the Children’s Financial Literacy classes, a Credit Union Development savings bank visits and seeing a Village Entrepreneur’s business.
The approach from the second and third day was much more hands-on with the TMB team able to get involved in a variety of activities whether it was explaining basic financial concepts, playing traditional games with students or learning how to craft pots with local business owners.
The final day saw the trip winding down before flying back to Australia the following day and included visits to local communities and sites that have been assisted by former Cufa projects. It gave everyone an opportunity to see how Cufa operates and visit some staff.
Every night was accompanied by a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, a cultural experience in itself.
Two of our Cufa staff members that accompanied the group throughout the tour were project coordinators Sreyneang Pok and Tola Chhorn. They thoroughly enjoyed hosting staff from TMB and had this to say of the trip.
“I enjoyed showing our guests the Children’s Financial Literacy and Village Entrepreneur programs and as most of our guests had banking backgrounds, the objectives of these two programs is very aligned with their expertise. The Children’s Financial Literacy kids are always very interested to learn about the saving habits of Australian kids and how they save. I feel like the guests could learn a lot from the kids and Village Entrepreneur families.” - Sreyneang Pok, Project Coordinator Cufa
“Our guests were very interested in the project activities, they were great listeners, asked many questions and got involved with many of the activities in the community. They were kind enough to share their experiences and skills with local people in the community and we had time to exchange many stories.” – Tola Chhorn, Project Coordinator Cufa
From everyone at Cufa, thank you to the TMB team for being such amazing guests!
If you would like to organise something similar with your workplace please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned next month to see what some of the TMB staff thought of the study tour!
The Strengthening Resettlement and Income Restoration Implementation (SRIRI) program was established by Cufa in 2012 as a response to families being left vulnerable by the Cambodian government’s decision to rehabilitate a disused railway track where they had been living. Recently, this program has reached its completion, providing us with an excellent opportunity to reflect upon our work over the years in developing communities.
Funded by the Asian Development Bank, SRIRI is one of our most comprehensive and diverse programs. It provides broad-ranging support for families to restart their lives across five resettlement sites, whilst also ensuring the community as a whole is safe, secure and sustainable. The project operations are threefold, exercising each of Cufa’s specialties–employment, education, and economic institutions.
The first stage of the program is the Vocational Placement Strategy (VPS). It addresses employment and vocational training. Participants were assisted by being placed in jobs that matched their skillsets. Individuals were also provided debt relief, loans, and counselling and groups were taught life skills, financial literacy, CV writing and interview skills.
The second stage of SRIRI establishes Self Help Groups (SHG). These provide training and support in financial concepts. Resettlement sites are also linked to economic institutions that encourage participants to begin saving for the future.
The third stage is the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which is operated by volunteers in the community to look after the cleanliness and sustainability of the local environment. They are trained by Cufa on how to adequately monitor and repair key elements of the community such as the water supply, drainage, waste management, roads and vegetation.
The overarching goal of SRIRI is to provide displaced community members with all the important tools so they can live sustainably and have improved livelihoods in their new communities.
The program achieved some amazing results from across all five of the sites where it operated. Household incomes were increased, communities were provided a quality education and the O&M project made the communities more liveable. Thousands of people, especially women, were educated in financial literacy, vocational training was provided across the sites imparting crucial skills for people to get jobs and livelihood groups were developed as people got into business. All in all, Cufa has been extremely happy with the development of these communities and with the knowledge that at the culmination of the program these communities will be able to continue to develop and grow.
Cufa reported on many success stories throughout the program. Some of these included:
Sok was a participant who became interested in cleaning up her community after suffering from many issues around her house due to a lack of rubbish disposal causing flooding. She became an inspirational figure in her community encouraging others to do the same.
Torn was able to benefit from the VPS program by getting a new job at a local guesthouse. He excelled in his position and shortly afterwards earned himself a promotion.
Noeun Bunny married his wife Pork Srey Nic in 2015. Like many young couples, they dreamed of starting a family. It wasn’t long before this dream came true and now they have a young daughter. To support his young family, Noeun worked in a garment factory for years. This was until he was selected to participate in Cufa’s LEED program and become a business owner.
Noeun’s previous work in the garment factory taught him a range of sewing and craft skills. However, the job involved extremely long hours, it was very far from home and the factory had very poor management. He wanted to be able to better care for his young child and be able to spend more time at home. For this reason, Noeun decided to open his own business and become a tailor.
Since receiving the support of Cufa’s LEED program, Noeun has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise development training and received one-on-one consultations from Cufa project officers on how to improve his business. After developing a business plan, gaining training in marketing strategy and microfinance, Noeun’s business has rapidly increased.
Noeun has been able to purchase new sewing equipment and has a larger range of materials including branded materials. Thanks to all this training and the beneficial changes that have been made, Noeun believes his business has tripled and this has led to him increasing the financial support he can provide for his family.
“It is a good location, I have more confidence in managing my business and the future looks great for me and my family!” said Noeun.
Through many of his new business skills, Noeun has been able to manage his daily expenses, reinvest profits and even save some of his income, which is amounting to around 10,000 Cambodian Riels a day or $3.50. He has even been able to invest in a small second business farming chickens. The improvements in the living conditions of his family are evident and many of his neighbours often ask him how he gained such success.
Noeun credits much of the success as a business owner to the support he received through the program, primarily in building his business skill set and buying new materials.
Chaem Han is a 40-year-old father of three living in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. Unfortunately, Chaem was forced to drop out of school during grade six. This was because of a deteriorating family and financial situation and he started to work as a labourer building houses. Chaem has continued this work intermittently while farming rice and after he met his wife and started a family he decided to start a business.
Chaem’s business, a barbershop, began in an old hut and was not initially doing well. This was until in 2018 when Chaem was selected to participate in and gain support and training from Cufa’s LEED program.
Since his involvement in the program began, he has attended capacity building training, micro-enterprise training and received consultations to improve his business. After developing a business plan with the help of Cufa staff, Chaem was trained on market strategy and provided materials and equipment for his barbershop.
Chaem has set his prices at 2500 riels ($0.88) for children and 3000 riels ($1.05) for adults. His customers have been coming from both inside his village and from surrounding villages. His success has been steadily increasing from two to three customers up to six a day now.
In addition, using the business skills Chaem has picked up from the program he has recently opened a second business cleaning motorbikes. This can earn him up to 10,000 riels a day on top of what he earns as a barber and he has been using the budgeting skills he learnt from the program to better care for his family finances.
As his business has increased his income and improved his living conditions his neighbours have been asking him about his business success and where to learn the necessary skills. Chaem is now full of confidence after learning life-changing skills in the program and is looking at building another, larger business in the future – a grocery store.
Chaem had to say of the program, “Thank you so much to Cufa for the significant support, not just with material and equipment but also for the business skills.”