Friday, September 9, 2011

Microfinance: The Women of Chheur Teal Village

A potato farmer, a grocery store owner, a pastor's wife and a banana seller, all united by one cause: To fund their children's education.

Most of the women of Chheur Teal Village in Cambodia's Kandal Province never had a chance to complete their own schooling. Now, as mothers, they're taking out loans and starting small businesses in hopes that they will be able to give their children opportunities they never had. Here are their stories:

Moung Pov
At 30 years of age, Moung Pov is already a small business owner. After much saving, she and her husband managed to scrape together enough money from their annual banana harvest to set up a small grocery store in their home village of Chheur Teal.

Their small stand carries the most basic staples — sugar, flour and eggs — but with the help of a loan from CHAD’s new credit and savings group in her village, Moung hopes to expand into the bigger-ticket items that will produce the revenue she needs to send her three children to school at a cost of about $30 each month.

Nut Silim
Fifty-year-old single mother of three Nut Silim never had the chance to attend college, having come of age in a time when Cambodians with higher-education degrees were singled out for persecution by the murderous Khmer Rouge.

But now she sees an opportunity to give her two daughters the education she never received. A micro-loan of just $100 is all she says she needs to start a banana stand at the local market, which she has confidence will giver her the returns to pay for her 18-year-old daughter's English studies at a university in Phnom Penh. The tuition costs about $400 per year — well over the profit from the average family's rice harvest in Nut's native Kandal Province.

If Nut's business venture proves successful, she anticipates being able to fund her second daughter's college studies when she graduates from high school in two years.

Chheung Reth
This mother of six doesn't mind getting her hands dirty if it means providing a good education for her four school-age children. In fact, if she has things her way, she'll be getting even dirtier in the near future, when an anticipated loan from CHAD's credit and savings group will allow her to expand her potato farming business.

Though she is not a church member, Chheung appreciates the value of the church's latest investment in her community and looks forward to receiving a loan of $200 to $300, which she will use to expand her harvest by renting additional land and purchasing extra seeds. With the profits from her expanded business, Chheung will make yet another investment — in her 18-year-old daughter's education, opening the door to send the teen to a private high school where she will pursue her love of linguistics, studying English and Chinese in preparation for the university education her mother dreams of one day providing her with.

Chea Sophal
As the pastor's wife at Chheur Teal Methodist Church, Chea Sophal is proud of the initiative the women in her husband's congregation have shown in starting a credit and savings group, and she looks forward to the day when she can invest her own savings into the group — a gesture she sees as an important vote of confidence in the women.

Chea says the group is both an economic and a spiritual tool.

"It helps group members improve their standard of living, and it helps bring (non-Christians) to God," in a very physical sense, through group meetings held in the church building, she said.

And though Chea sees her role in the group as more of a cheerleader and investor, all the entrepreneurial dreams being floated in group meetings seem to have caught her own imagination, and she now hopes that one day she will be able to take out a small loan of $100 to turn her domestic chicken-raising efforts into a small, for-profit operation, by building a chicken house and purchasing additional chicks.

Like her fellow groups members, Chea too, plans to put away profits from her business toward her youngest son's college education.

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