The old adage states: Give a starving man food today and he will be hungry again tomorrow, but teach him to fish, and he will learn to feed himself.
Our Small Business HELP Loan helps people help themselves. We don't believe in handouts, we prefer "hand-ups". Taking a very low-interest loan, 1.5% per month, means poor people have the chance to turn their lives around without the fear of loan sharks – who charge 10% interest per month - breathing down their necks.
We interview anyone interested in getting a HELP Loan so that we can work with them in planning their business. We forecast the commercial aspect and gauge the commitment of the applicants. To be eligible for the HELP Loan they need to submit their business plan and get approval first. The HELP Loan funds a new start, a renewed independence and, for many, their first real taste of the discipline of money management.
We provide loans of $100 or less, a tiny amount by western standards but enough in Cambodia to get people on their feet and get a business going. Through our HELP Loans people have become watermelon, cucumber and corn farmers, oil lamp sellers, and meat, fruit and vegetable vendors.
Look closely at this piece of fruit. It's just a watermelon, right? Wrong. It's so much more than a watermelon. It's a future, an opportunity, a lifeline out of abject poverty. This watermelon was grown by Chatdy's father after he took a HELP Loan from CCF. Chatdy was forced to stop going to public school in 2010 as her family was too poor, in debt and life was dire. Her father drank too much, was sometimes violent, had outstanding debts, didn't have a job and their home was in squalor.
In the middle of 2010, Chatdy became a CCF External Education student. With our community counselling and support, her father stopped drinking, paid off his debts and got his land back in Prey Veng, where he now lives and grows watermelons. This is his first crop and he's already making a tidy profit.
Chatdy is now one of the top students in public school and Satellite School, and is on course to start college in 2016. If ever we needed validation of the CCF External Education Program, in terms of helping the student, the family and the whole community, we need look no further than Chatdy.