Re-living Cambodian Challenge Program memories

By Teri Wilson, Cambodian Challenge participant 2011

“I cannot speak highly enough of the impact being made on the ground in Cambodia and the difference it is making to the lives of the community members both now and well in to the future”.

In 2011, Teri Wilson participated in CUFA’s Cambodian Leadership Challenge program; a cycling adventure around the breathtaking Ankor Wat that raises funds to support CUFA’s work in Cambodia.

Recently Teri returned to Cambodia, and met with some of the Village Entrepreneurs and children that the Challenge program supports. Here is Teri’s story on her journey back to Cambodia.

Having been fortunate enough to experience the warm hospitality of the CUFA team and their fantastic work in communities across Cambodia twice before, it was with great anticipation I returned for what was my third visit to this remarkable country. The charm and genuine spirit of the Cambodian people, for me, is yet to be matched in any part of the world. It is for this reason alone Cambodia remains my favourite place.

On my previous visit to Cambodia I was a participant in the Cambodian Leadership Challenge – in 2011, our challenge group raised valuable funds toward the Children’s Financial Literacy program. Returning three years later it was humbling to see the program continuing strongly and being so brilliantly received by the children at Aliang Primary School. I once again contorted myself in to the wooden desks in the classroom and delighted at the children’s stories of how they were saving money and as they shared their savings goals with me. The enthusiasm simply bursts from the room during these sessions and today’s class led by Yom and supported by Tola, was as wonderful as the first I took part in in 2009.

As we waved goodbye to the children who had so freely shared their classroom, we were so graciously welcomed in to the homes of three VE’s, all members of the Preymoul Commune Savings Bank – one awaiting the commencement of the June VE program and two sponsored VE’s. It is extremely difficult to articulate the difference between the businesses of those VE’s awaiting sponsorship or about to embark on the program versus those who have taken part in one to two years of the three year sponsorship program. The only way to do is to say there is no comparison. The skills acquired by the VE’s throughout the span of the program and the financial support enables them to make lifelong changes – the program is the difference between meeting their basic human needs through improved housing, educating their children, access to healthcare when needed and saving for a better future. I was truly in awe of the new lives the two sponsored VE’s had worked so hard to build for themselves since commencing the program. Their grins from ear to ear bridged the language barrier – nothing more needed to be said as their proudness was infectious. The massive impact the program has had on their own and their families’ lives will be felt for generations – and that is not an overstatement in any way.

I genuinely look forward to continuing what has been my five year relationship with CUFA so far and supporting their ongoing work in Cambodia. It is truly inspiring to see the work of the passionate staff and the huge impact they are making in Cambodia. I cannot speak highly enough of the impact being made on the ground in Cambodia and the difference it is making to the lives of the community members both now and well in to the future.

CUFA’s Children’s Financial Literacy (CFL) Program works with children aged 7-12 with the lessons based on the merits and fun of savings along with related financial literacy skills building. Each lesson teaches children basic financial concepts and the benefits of developing good savings habits from an early age. CUFA’s Village Entrepreneur program is a program of support and funding for an individual to seek a better life through micro-business development.

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