Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Small business loan

On a personal note we have become involved in a small test project where we went in with a local American couple to loan a local guy the money to purchase a tuk tuk, so he can afford to live and feed his family.  Our friends, Will and Anna had several experiences to vouch for his integrity, so we took their word for it. At some stage you have to trust somebody.  Will and Anna own the "Maybe Later" Restaurant and Bar on Beach Rd in Sihanoukville.

Until now he had been a moto dop (scooter taxi) but his scooter was on it's last legs and it's very hard to make any money when it rains as no one wants to catch a scooter, his name is Chron Heak and we helped fund his tuk tuk.

He had enough money for the deposit, which he used to get the project started. We met him in Phnom Penh and handed over the rest of the money.  We had a contract drafted in Khmer and English explaining we had the right to repossess the tuk tuk if he didn't make the payments. Of course were ever mindful of the seasonality of Sihanoukville and allowed him to vary the loan payments as well as draw down on them if he paid back quickly and had an emergency. We also charged no interest and allowed four years to pay it off.

We had always been interested in micro-finance, albeit this was larger then typical micro finance deals.

We took a  few photos the day after he arrived back from Phnom Penh
Heak driving, Anna, Will and myself in the back

About a week later, he invited us over to his place to see where he lives, supporting his mother, and two nephews.

The kitchen
Inside the house

Top of the stairs

View out the front, over an industrail compound

Heak is convinced he and his neighbours will all be evicted soon, as there is more industrial land out the back, "What then ?" I asked, " I do not know" he answered forlornly. A fact of life if we in the West want cheap runners or clothing etc

The neighbourhood
We'll see how it goes and if the loan is paid back, how do you judge the guys integrity ?



First up, thank you so very much to my Mother, Grandmother and Marian, they gave $300 between them, I don't have the words to express how generous my family have been, it's truly... thank you so much, I am humbled !


The school term is about to start again, something I think might be hard for those at home to understand is the lack of resources schools have over here.  The local "Education Department" supplies the curriculum and a few bureaucratic administrators and that's about it.  Locals have to pay for their own teachers (often controversial, as there is often the thought that the more you pay, the better your marks) , their own buildings, their own resources and the list goes on.  Teacher wages on the whole are not high... $80 - $100 a month... yes that's right A MONTH ! and that's mostly from money from locals and donations.  So if it seems odd that I spend money on education, that's because if the local NGO and volunteer community didn't, there would be very little indeed.  Without some education, what chance to the children have of any future above subsistence level ?

Otres School

The school term is about to start again, I went out the other day and spent some time playing games with the kids.

Games with the kids during the Khmer New Year Holidays 

No parents, he and his brother squat under some
tin at the side of a farmers shed.
Games always involve helping them improve their conversational English.  As I mostly work with Grades 1 and 2, as you can imagine their linguistic skills in their native Khmer language aren't that great, let alone a foreign language like English.  Some of the kids lack even the most basic skills, like how to hold a pencil but they laugh and love life, and there is something to be said for that.

Just getting to the school is a tricky business
Locals doing bridge repairs

Dodging the buffalo and his scat !
and, as you who know me realise, I am not a teacher but I do the best I can. I'm learning with the help of resources from Kelly McCrae and the internet. Next week we are going to teach basic hygiene to children who have never brushed their teeth or even own a cake of soap. Should be very interesting.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Lunch ! and how many can fit on a scooter ?


Jenny from Martin Rd made a $50 donation via pay pal the other day, absolutely wonderful and thank  you so much Jenny, it came through the day before we went to Khmer New year lunch and we have a serendipitous story about how we used Jenny's money to help out a local family.  More on that later.

Good Will Centre

I was invited down to the Good Will Centres' Khmer New Year party, we supplied some of the fruit from the donations fund ($8), this was sourced from the local Market.

The party was wonderful, attended by most of the kids and the teachers.  Anyone interested in the great job these guys do can find out more here

Fruit for the party

The kids had a wonderful time, as did I.
These girls had been practising a a dance routine ! Awesome !

Tug of war, teacher joining in

Rain storm providing the opportunity
 for a quick shower

Henrik, who founded the organisation,
 owner of the Small Hotel in Sihanoukville

Enjoying fruit for lunch

Local boy loved wearing our sunglasses and he could really bust a move !

Mong's Family - Khmer New Year Lunch

As the Otres School was in recess for the Khmer New Year for a few weeks I had some extra time on my hands.  I have been coming to the Good Will Centre for a couple of reasons, one to ensure they were doing the "right thing" so that any donations we gave them from the Nymboida Donations Fund would be used properly i.e. I was doing some due diligence and because in the short time I had been coming to the centre, I had formed a relationship with some of the people there, volunteers, Khmer staff and Khmer volunteers.  In particular Sabine (from Germany) is a volunteer that runs the place and does an incredible job and Mong, a local Khmer young man of 17 who was acting as my moto-dop.

Mong invited us out to his place for lunch on Khmer New Year, which is more a religious time of the year, than a "turning of the calendar" celebration, as it is in the west.  They had made us a special lunch, which was kind of unfortunate as we had wanted to eat what they eat on a day to day basis but I guess this is not unlike us in the west when we invite guests over, we often make something special.

L to R: Me, Mong and his Mother (Mie) under their house

Their house: Mong, Mother, Father, Sister, Brother in Law and Brother

Lunch they had cooked for us

The kitchen

Mongs fathers blacksmith workshop - Forge on L and anvil on R
Back of the kitchen

Unfortunately they live on land they rent from the neighbour, so they are very restricted in what they can do.  Mongs father breaks rocks by hand for a living, literally, has done for decades, and sells them for construction purposes. Mongs mother makes a savoury rice porridge and wanders the streets selling it.

Old Lady living under the neighbours house
The neighbours houses all crowded around, living in each others back pockets.  The back neighbour had an old lady who had been allowed to squat there. She slept in a rope hammock under the house and locals donated food for her to live.  She had an interesting face.

During the course of lunch it came up that they had no toilet, they simply wander up to some spot on the hill up the back. They couldn't afford the $50 to have a toilet built, so we thought that would be a great way to spend Jenny's money, so we gave Mongs mother the money, with Mong translating (he spoke quite good English from putting himself through English school)  saying it was for them to build a toilet.

Mong's mother (Mie) accepting Jenny's donation

All in all a great day and it had been a wonderful opportunity to glimpse the life of the urban poor of Cambodia. It's really quite soul destroying to see how these people live. If twenty people gave the price of a bottle of coke, we could build a toilet for their neighbours.

Moto-Dop (scooter taxi)

Scooter taxis are one of the main ways to get about it Cambodia where you jump on the back of a scooter, in fact, they seem to be able to fit so many people on a scooter, I am not sure why they need cars at all ! While I didn't take this photo, and it is an extreme example, 4 - 6 is not uncommon, and I myself am occasionally on the back with a moto-dop, his wife and two kids.  This photo speaks volumes :)

These moto-taxis are normally run by men of various ages and are just people who happen to own a scooter offering their services to run you around for a fee.  Fuel is as expensive here as it is in Australia, so comparatively it is horrendously expensive and makes up the biggest component of a fair, I would pay $1 to get to the other end of town from were I live.  Supply and demand is completely left to the free market and it is an interesting example of  genuine Capitalism at work, with no interference or legislation from Government at all. A system that works really well.


Just a reminder to those living in Aus, in order to avoid paypal fees (Pay Pal took $1.50 from Jenny's generous $50  donation), you can do a direct deposit straight into the bank account, the details of which are right under the Pay Pal donation button on the web page.  This is what Richard does every fortnight with his regular generous donations.  Small regular donations ($5 - $10 a fortnight) can be set up through your Internet banking account easily.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Happy Khmer New Year... but wait, there's more !


Once again a HUGE thank you to Richard at Nymboida for the generous ongoing donation he has set up, I and the people of Cambodia we help with the funds really appreciate it, small amounts go a LONG way over here. As an example, a bowl of soup is around $8 in Australia but only $1.50 here.   If anyone else wishes to make small regular donations, just set it up from  your online banking and let me know !  The details on where to deposit are on the left hand side, at the top of the blog.

Khmer New Year

or Chaul Chnam Thmey to those of us over here, officially starts on 13 April for 3 days.  The week prior and after various schools shut for various lengths of time.  It seems odd to those of us used to the more strict regime set by the various state based authorities in Australia but it seems a little more parochial over here.  Otres school is shut for a couple weeks but other schools aren't.  The festivities will build until the dates themselves, next weekend.

Rum Dual School

After being approached by the volunteers that help support this small rural school, under the auspices of a Commander in the Cambodian Armed Forces (the school is on his land and the army is very much in charge over here)  they asked if we should sponsor $25 to a pay a couple of the local village men to finish painting the second classroom and purchase a bag of concrete to allow them to concrete the school playground equipment into the ground, currently the donated equipment was sitting on the ground.  We have been working on other projects for them, some advice and support on administration, business card and web site design (more on that when it's finished) to help them in their fund raising.  This school is very much a stereotype of small rural, poor school.  No electricity, a road that can't be traversed for much of the year due to weather, and the other access via the river is a ramshackle ferry.

Ciaron, one of the Irish volunteers catching a lift on the "ferry".
 Altogether, a wonderful place.

Good Will Childrens Centre

I was recently approached to ask if it was possible to help out with funding at a Childrens drop in Centre, the Good Will Centre.  This centre allows the poorest kids a place to visit to help keep them off the streets, to give them a chance to use computers and an opportunity to play games and learn English.  I have spent two days there, the first day I played games with the children,

My crafty opponents, plotting my downfall !

toured the small centre and spoke with staff and volunteers.  I even managed to lose at Dominoes, and the loser gets their face covered in flour ! No fair I say !

Dominos losers' in the middle and right, cocky winner on the left.
I was invited back the next day for a party in the afternoon, I supply the fruit ! Sounds like a great deal to me and I had an awesome time with the kids.  I was very impressed with what the volunteers are doing and we will help them out.

Petty Cash

Just a reminder, you can view the Petty Cash Account to see where all these small purchases are going here