Dried palm fruit tastes like spongy macaroons, and warning, is quite an addicting snack. Phearum Youen sells her palm fruit among the vendors on the street leading up to a Buddhist temple frequented by tourists. Arranged in little bags filled with six or seven pieces each, she quietly cut and plucked the hearts from the coconut-like shell while telling us her incredible story.
By Kylie Foley
Phearum is only 28 but is already a seasoned entrepreneur. She started selling palm fruit when she was twenty years old. Since her father died when she was young, she was only allowed to attend first grade and has helped take care of her family and herself since then. But with a husband and two kids now, she had to start earning more that the $2.50 a day she was making. She applied for her first loan of $250 to start buying palm fruit in bulk from a wholesaler. From there, she rented a space next to the road for about $4.50 US a month and sold her palm fruit to the tourists and locals walking by.
She’s on her second cycle of loan and is using the money to increase her business. Phearum doubled her daily income after the loans and makes $5 to $7 a day now. By saving money she hopes to build a bigger house in the next couple of years and build a grocery store outside of it so she can be closer to her children.
Her 6-year-old daughter, Theara, and 8-year-old son, Chanritch, go to school and help around the house. By keeping kids in school as long as possible, the opportunities for being exploited are limited and children are kept safe. Phearum’s loans are extremely important, whether she knows it or not, when it comes to keeping her children safe from hidden evils.
For hours each day after coming home from the market, Phearum and her husband, Yin Sovun, sit in front of their house and cut open seeds for the next day. They go through a shipment of seeds in 3-7 days and it’s hard work. But during festival days and tourist season, she can sell her fruit for more and earn a better income. The wholesaler also buys back bags of palm skins for $1 US each, providing another opportunity for income.
When asked what her dreams are for her children, she is confused. “I can’t think of a future for them”, she says timidly, but knows that she wants them to go higher in school that she was able to. Phearum might not have dreams for her children yet, but her goals of building a better business and life for her family is a great future. Hopefully she realizes, as she sweetly sells a bag of palm fruit to a customer, that she’s already made a great start.
Meet the Phearum and her family in a clip from the film “Working For Tomorrow”.
A group of young creative activists who met Phearum, her family, and others in Cambodia created our new campaign: ACT:S+MICRO, to tell the stories of 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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