Investments Not Handouts: Breaking Families Out Of The Poverty Trap
Cambodian Children’s Fund doesn’t give handouts, we invest – in people, families and communities. We are always looking for new ways to tackle the problems our communities face, and creative ways to break families out of poverty traps that might otherwise last for generations.
However, we only fund projects that we know will generate a real return on that investment. Our loans program is a perfect example: by providing select families with the financial assistance they need to work themselves out of dire need or loan shark debts, we ensure their children can get the education they need to break the cycle of poverty. Best of all, these families often go on to help others in the community.
Before our loans program existed, community members were often forced to borrow from private money lenders with crippling interest rates. After spending most of their meagre income on basic living costs such as food and shelter, families struggled to pay the high interest rate of 10% – 20%, let alone the loan. After seeing many community members trapped in a negative cycle of debt, we started our loans program in 2007 to help these families get back on their feet. Our loans program ranges from short-term emergency loans, used to pay for medical expenses to small business loans helping a family to support themselves.
Mr. Mean Sam Ol is a shining example of the success of our loans program. Mr Mean and his family moved to the outskirts of Phnom Penh after struggling to earn a living as rice farmers in Kampong Cham province. In Phnom Penh, Mr Mean and his wife worked as scavengers, sifting through rubbish at the Steung Meanchey Dump site to collect recyclables to sell to earn a small income for their family.
Due to financial difficulty, one of the three children was forced to quit school when she was in grade 5 to work in a local factory. In 2011, CCF met the family and the children were accepted into our education programs. Mr. Mean then asked for a small business loan from CCF to start a small grocery store in front of the family home. After he was carefully assessed, he was approved. He worked hard and after paying off the first loan, he decided to ask for another loan to expand the store.
Today this business generates a daily profit of around 15,000 riel ($3.75) after taking out daily expenses and other necessary payments for the family, a substantial profit given that a family’s total income is $4. “I can now save $50 to pay back to CCF every month. Plus, I have food for my family and my children are at school,” said Mr Mean. “Without CCF’s help, my children might not have been back in class or they may not have reached their current grade”.
Using low cost loans encourages families to work themselves out of poverty without creating a dependency on cash handouts. We know that a financially stable family can be the difference between a child who fulfils their academic potential thanks to a supportive home environment, and one who is either pulled out of education to earn for the family or too distracted by domestic difficulties to study. Our loans aren’t really loans at all – they’re investments in the future.
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