Sustainable Cambodia
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Sustainable Cambodia, Inc.
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Meet the Families

We are working in 18 rural villages, and in 2011 will expand into several more. The villages are all in central Cambodia, but are spread out over a 4-5 hour radius (by moto), with one cluster surrounding the small town of Pursat and the other cluster in very remote Kravanh District, whcih is accessible from Pursat. The villages include more than 15,000 residents (men, women and children). The Pursat-hubbed villages (Krang Popleak, Pheal Nheak, Ra, Sthany, Osdao, Sray Att and Trang) are all within walking or bicycle distance from our regional office and campus, while the Kravanh villages require a long moto-ride to reach.

Most of these families have had little opportunity to do anything other than work as subsistence rice farmers. Rice is planted during the first two months of the rainy season, cultivated for several months and harvested over the last two months before the dry season. Then, during the five months of the dry season, the families hope they have saved enough money or rice to keep from starving until the next harvest. Few families own more than one small rice paddy, and many own no plantable land at all and work as tenant farmers. Field labor is paid 75 cents to $1 per day, but work isn't available during the dry season. Life has been very hard for these families, yet they love their children with all their hearts, and they work very hard to make their villages a better place to live.

Before Sustainable Cambodia began partnering with these families, they often had no drinking water other than what they were able to collect from small man-made ponds covered with algae and scum. And even the children had to work the fields during the few months work was available, to avoid outright starvation. Now everything is changing. Vegetable gardens are growing. Food can be grown year-round. And children are drinking clean, fresh water. When you walk through the villages, the families are friendly and welcoming. And the children are absolutely joyous! Smiles abound!

Our school and education programs are opening the future for these people, and the village development programs are making their daily lives immeasurably better. Yet there is still much to be done. Many more wells are needed. Many families still need access to clean water. Often water comes in the form of a well. Well installation involves the work of a large number of villagers: We pay for the central shaft to be drilled, but the villagers must dig a hole, with hand tools, which is 2 meters wide and 10 to 15 meters deep, through hard clay! This is their in-kind contribution, and it gives a huge sense of ownership and empowerment.

Another water model that has become increasingly popular is the construction of a Community Pond. These are huge, like a small reservoir, and are also dug by hand-shovels and with wheel barrows (provided by us). The families work for months to build this, but once constructed it provides a water source through the entire dry season.

Once water is available, families can choose from among our basic development programs. They may choose our micro-business/micro-loan program (based on the Grameen Bank model) to start a modest vegetable growing business, to raise a pig for market or to start a trade or craft. Or they can choose to receive a breeding pair of farm animal as part of the pass-on animal program, where each recipient is required to pass on the gift to two other village famiies, geometrically increasing the number of farm animals over time. Or they might choose vocational training or adult education, or some combination of these programs. And they can start a Family Savings Plan where they save for a family dream.

The "New Life" Village Daycare and Early Learning Center in Krang Popleak has become a model for the other villages, and we expect this concept to grow. The villagers supply 100% of the labor and a small portion of the materials to build, with our assistance on the balance of the materials, a daycare learning center in the village. This allows the village women to work, and the children to get preparation for school. Then, when the children are school age, they can enter our Sustainable Cambodia school for mathematics, science, geography, English, Khmer literature, culture and other advanced classes.

Through a combination of their own determination and our shared support, the families in these villages can survive their current difficulties and build a new life. With your support, we can help these families change the future for themselves and their children.