Poverty isn’t just a measurement of lacking income; in reality, poverty impacts many elements of a family’s life. It often robs children of their childhood and can hinder strong community from being built. The story of Sam Mai and her family reveals that with a microloan, there can be hope for something more.
By: Ngozi Williams
Sam Mai is from the Stung Meanchey District outside the city of Phnom Penh.
After her husband died, she found herself with five children to care for, no income, and without any support from family or community. She was living on a garbage heap, scavenging through the trash to selling recyclables. Though she worked hard, what she could collect was not enough of an income. This meant that all of her children had to help scavenge and sell items everyday in order to survive. Time did not allow for school, and the children had to work instead of play. One of her older sons, who is now 19 years old, got involved with a wrong group of people, staying out late at night and sniffing glue. She was worried about the fate of her son and what the future would bring for her other children.
It wasn’t until a World Vision microfinance loan officer visited that Sam Mai decided to take matters into her own hands and put the effort into making a better life for her family. Through World Vision, she has received two loans, the first for $50 and a second for $60. With her first loan, Sam Mai bought a bicycle, a basket to put on the bike and bread from the local market to sell in her community in the morning. With her second loan she bought more bread and a few small items to go with the bread. She now has enough stock to sell bread in the afternoon as well. For about 4 hours a day she rides her bike, traveling great distances, selling her items.
As a parent, Sam Mai wanted the very best for her children and once she was given a loan, she was able to start providing more for her children. Her children no longer have to work and now attend school instead. They have the freedom to enjoy their childhood and imagine possibilities for a brighter future. Before she received her first loan, the people in her community looked down on her and didn’t have much respect for her. Now, after her second loan, she has flourished, has a home to live in, and has put her children in school. Her community has turned around and shown her the respect she deserves as a person. Sam Mai is still making future plans for another loan in order to rent space or a store in the local market place so that she can sell her goods all day in one place.
Here’s Sam Mai’s story and a clip from the film “Working For Tomorrow”.
A group of young creative activists who met Sam Mai and others in Cambodia created our new campaign: ACT:S+MICRO, to tell her story and the stories of other entrepreneurs whose lives are being transformed through microloans. Together they’re challenging groups across the nation to learn about microfinance, tell their stories, and work together to fund an entrepreneur. Learn more, see the film, and order resources at worldvisionmicro.org/acts.
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