|EC's Community Development Program Making Significant Impacts to Families|
In 2010, Equitable Cambodia began working with the Tang Khiev (Blue Tent) community, located near Oudong Mountain in Kandal province about 40 kilometers from Phnom Penh. This community of more than 100 families was experiencing extreme poverty conditions after being forcibly evicted twice from their homes in Phnom Penh. Over the past two years, the CDP has focused on community organizing and livelihood restoration with the displaced families, the results of which can be seen in the following case study on the family of Nith and Yuth.
Mr. Nem Nith (38) and his wife, Sok Yuth (36), lived in the community of Dey Krahom for 12 years with their four children aged 14, 11, 9, and 4. To support themselves and their children they made and sold ice cream in the hot season and fried bananas in the rainy season. The family considered themselves very comfortable; they owned motorbikes, rented a house, had access to a car, and were able to feed their children regular meals. Mrs. Yuth worked from home making the ice cream to sell in their immediate community and Nith would travel outside of their community to sell their ice cream.
At dawn on 24 December 2009 bulldozers arrived, damaging their home and all their belongings. They were able to save only a few items, including some business materials. The company forcing them off their land had rented trucks to transport the families from their homes to a new location out of town. With their children, a small bag of possessions, and one mosquito net, they boarded a truck and left their home of 12 years.
Prior to the eviction, Nith had rented a space near Dey Krahom in the suburb of Chamcarmorn where he stored their ice cream cart and fried banana stand. Three days after their eviction, the house was broken into and all their belongings were stolen. The family lost their business. Nith had to travel each day from Building Two, their new home, to find work in construction in Phnom Penh. This was their life for one year, during which time Nith and Yuth struggled to feed themselves and their four children. With support from the NGO Licadho, who provided food supplements for two or three months, they survived on Nith's small income from his construction work until a year later when they were forced to move again. Nith chose to stay in Phnom Penh and continue to work in construction in order to support the family, but Yuth travelled alone with her children and 9000 Riel ($2.25USD) to the new relocation site. With that money she bought four small poles to build a tent with the blue tarpaulin they'd been given at the previous site. These blue tents gave the new location its name – Tang Khiev, Khmer for blue tent.
Nith travelled back and forth between Tang Khiev and Phnom Penh every ten days. He had to stop this after five months as the cost of transport was too much and there was little work available. Once again, the couple struggled to feed their children. Nith would fish in ponds located about 7km from Tang Khiev in an attempt to find food, but this wasn't enough and everyone went hungry. This was about the time when BABC started working in the Tang Khiev community and established the Self Help (Savings) Groups. The family first became involved in the SHG when they borrowed 50,000 Riel ($12.50 USD) to start up a fried banana business. With few established businesses in the area, they were successful and were able to pay back the loan within three weeks. During this time they were still living in their blue tent and Yuth would sell bananas in the village and Nith would travel outside the village to sell them.
In October 2011, BABC talked with the community about other business opportunities they could support to help these families get back on their feet. Yuth signed up for the sewing association, however due to health concerns was not able to continue (she receives free health care from the Centre of Hope who operate in the village). Instead the couple worked together and became part of the ice cream making initiative. They now sell ice cream and friend bananas and on an average day they are able to make about 20,000 Riel ($5 USD). On a good day they can earn up to 30,000 Riel ($7.50). They now make enough money to feed the family and send all four children to school.
In February 2012, another NGO operating in the community built the family a house so they no longer live in the blue tent. With the income earned through their small business they are able to pay this off at a rate of $2 USD per month. They are also still part of the Self Help Group where they save 2000 Riel ($0.50 USD) per week. When business is good, they can save up to 10,000 Riel per day ($2.50 USD). With the money they save, the family plan to buy more land so they may accommodate the whole family comfortably, as well as expand their fried banana business. Yuth's dream is to one day also be able to raise chickens and ducks.