SAVINGS - THE CORNERSTONE
OF TABITHA'S ACTIVITIES
In order to break the attitudinal and psychological barriers to development, Tabitha Cambodia focuses on savings. The rationale is that savings is a non threatening way to make choices, a very necessary element for a people who have very low self esteem.
All families in Cambodia, no matter how poor, have some cash available. They may earn this money by cutting grass to sell to a farmer or collecting discarded plastic bottles and cans. This cash flow is necessary to survive; there is no social security program. Saving a little of this cash flow each week is at the heart of this program.
The “Community Development through Savings Program” helps families to "dream" of a better future. Families are encouraged to save a small amount each week; this money is collected by the local Tabitha staff. At the end of each 10-week “savings cycle”, the savings are returned. The family is then encouraged to purchase their first "dream" – whether it is drinking glasses, clothes for the baby, or a new tarpaulin to keep the rain off. Families then continue in the savings program.
THE CHALLENGE OF POVERTY
Poverty is partly an attitudinal and psychological state. In Cambodia, the past 40 years of war, genocide and its aftermath have left people feeling disenfranchised from life itself. The lack of security, the loss of family members, and the loss of their original homes over so many years has resulted in a severe poverty that is both physical and psychological.
In addition to their recent past, several cultural and societal issues result in poverty. Cambodians see their children as an assured method of social security. They believe that their children must take care of their parents in their old age, and therefore they have many children.
A second issue arising from this is that when a child gets married, the child will receive a portion of the family land. As their children reach a marriageable age, the land a family owns shrinks to a point where the land can no longer support a family unless the land can bear food throughout more of the year. Currently, only one crop a year is the norm.
A third issue which causes poverty is illness within the family. Whenever a family member becomes very ill, the family begins to sell off what they own in order to find and pay for medical treatment. This means a family sells its animals and even their land in order to deal with the illness.
Savings enables families to provide for their basic needs. Families are able to eat a balanced and nutritious meal three times day, and have items to enable cooking. In addition, they can obtain bedding and mosquito nets, several sets of clothing per family member, chairs,
Savings enables families to save for such items as batteries to provide light at night, to purchase water jars for storing water for home use, to build latrines and to fund their portion of getting a well.
Through savings, families are able to increase their sources of useable income through the raising of pigs, chickens, and ducks, the development of small businesses or the growing of vegetables and rice.
Families can rebuild their homes by purchasing materials and paying for construction labor through the ten-week cycles – enabling homes to be rebuilt parts-at-a-time without overwhelming the families with debt.
They can also purchase transportation items such as bicycles, which allow children to be able to attend school while still being able to help with family chores. Lastly, savings enables the purchase of uniforms and supplies and the payment of fees so that children can attend school.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF SAVINGS
Family begins by saving 0.25 cents per week
Savings after 10
weeks = $2.50
Family buys 5 baby chicks at 0.50 cents each
Savings continue for 10 more weeks = $2.50
Family sells grown chickens at $10 each = $52.50
Family buys sack of rice
(50 kilos) for $40
Family buys 20 chicks
Family buys second-hand clothes for children
Family saves $5.00 per
week = $50.00
Family sells 20 chickens
Plants seeds for garden
Buys water pump for $190
Cost to support one family in the
savings programme for one year
Most families remain in the Family Savings Programme for five to seven years, at which time they have usually attained food, clean water, income security and some form of health care. This increased security often enables parents to send their children to school for the first time as well.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The Savings Programme acts as the cornerstone of the community development activities of Tabitha Cambodia. Please consider supporting the cost of one or more families’ participation in this programme. Even better, please consider a recurring monthly gift to provide ongoing support for this critical initiative.