Of the fourteen million people living in Cambodia, approximately 20% live below the national poverty line. The poverty line acts as a benchmark; the UN states that those falling beneath it do not have enough money to pay for the absolute basics like adequate shelter, food, education and health. Many more may fall just above this line, but still struggle to pay for basics like education and medical treatment, especially if unexpected circumstances arise.
Like so many of the frightening statistics we hear about poverty, this number can be overwhelming. Real people, real stories and real consequences get lost in these numbers.
These statistics do not represent the tragedy of the death of a beloved infant, which is ten times more likely to happen in Cambodia than it is in Australia. These statistics do not represent the hopelessness of a family who loses their home because of flooding, and cannot afford to rebuild. The devastation of a young person who has to leave school, their best hope for a good job, because they cannot afford to continue, and thus cannot afford education for their children. The absolute horror of a young woman tricked into the sex trade after seeking a job to support her family.
Forced evictions have left around half a million residents displaced in recent years. “Every time we leave our home is the same as a soldier going to fight on the battlefield. Every time we leave we face arrest and they beat us. We don’t know if they will use violence against us or if we will lose our lives.” This results in families being left homeless, having to move far away from their work, their school, their livelihood. The evictions occur because big companies buy the land from the government. The country is fuelled by corruption and abuse of power. In addition to this, much logging and mining has resulted in families losing their homes and jobs, as is the case in Ratanakiri province.
Despite these heartbreaking truths about the poverty facing so many Cambodians, there is hope. Nearly all development indicators have improved over the last several decades, and continue to rise. Infant mortality, for example, has plummeted from 187 per 100,000 to 43 per 100,000. However, there is still much that can be done – for example, better education and vocational training will provide vital job opportunities and allow people to climb their way up the development ladder.
“I cannot earn much money per day because I have to stay home to take care of my young daughter and do housework. I grow vegetables, but my land is so small, so I cannot grow much. My husband sometimes say bad words to me because I could not earn money to help him, but I didn’t know what I should do as I could not go outside. I hope to work outside after I graduate sewing and my daughter is older.”
Soeurm is an amazing girl who had tried hard to keep studying until she graduated high school although her parents asked her to stop to help their work, but she didn’t listen to them as she dreamt to be a teacher. She sold vegetables that she grew at home to support her studies.
After she graduated high school, she wished to apply to learn to become a Khmer teacher, but unfortunately her parents disagreed. Again, she asked her parents to continue her study in university, but her parents rejected again with the reason that they have no money to support her studies and she had to help them earn money. She was so sad, but she had no choice and had to follow them.
Her first job was in a factory working in packaging. She then she got married to a man she worked with, and had a child with him. She decided to stop working as her health was not good.
When she heard about our sewing program through our graduated sewing student, she came to us and asked to learn this skill because she thought that this is a skill that she could use to work at home and her old workplace also needed a person who has sewing skills.
After learning our beginner sewing class for three months, Soeurm took out our sewing microfinance loan so she could practice her skill at home and earn some money through fixing and making clothes for her neighbor. Her studies have been going well and she also like our life skill lessons because it alerts her to think about her goal and future again.
“I really thank HHA who gave me this opportunity to learn sewing skill and provides me with good knowledge every Friday, and also given me good advice to solve my family problem. After I graduate sewing, I will apply to work at my old workplace or I will work at sewing shop. When I have enough money, I will set up a sewing shop at my house”.
It costs $90 a month to provide sewing training to a woman so she can move out of poverty. Become a Sewing Champion today!