view of the country side
Mark was in Cambodia in April. During his visit, Mark met with and reviewed the circumstances of all of our program's families. All of our families in one manner or another , are struggling to make ends meet. The financial reality of our program’s limited resources and the financial reality of each family in our circumstances requires a constant balancing act.
The families in our program live just outside the edge of desperation but who, because of our program, have a basic economic “ survival platform”. We urge and typically require that the families in our program ,if they are at all capable of doing so, find ways to earn money to supplement our support.
The current economic boom in Phnom Penh continues to push food and rent prices higher as land values soar, forcing unwanted change upon some of our fragile families. Here is the story of one family.
The story of “ Grandmother”
Grandmother joined our program about 16 years ago. Then at A 65, she was struggling to care for her daughter who was dying from AIDS and her two young grandchildren. Her grandson, then A 10 had mental capacity of about A 3 or A 4. Her granddaughter was about A 7. The mother soon passed away and Grandmother continued to care for the two children. She earned some money through a tiny vegetable stall at a market near by and the family managed to survive because of the support that our program provided .
Grandmother is now A 81, her grandson A 26 and granddaughter A 22. Sadly, little has changed. Grandmother and granddaughter sell vegetables in the market 7 days a week. Grandmother nets, after expenses, about $4 to $5 per day, which is a monthly income of $112 to $135. We provide a food allowance of $70 per month and housing assistance at $50, which gives the family at best $255 per month to support a family of 3 people.
Immense challenges face this family
Grandmother is now A 81 and she is beginning to become a bit frail. Another challenge facing this family is the reality that the grandson, A 26, is mentally only 3 or 4 years old and he cannot be left alone , even for short times. He accompanies his grandmother to the market every day so that she can watch over him.
Now a new and unexpected challenge faces the family. The land, where the market has been located for at least the 20 years we have been working in Cambodia, recently has been sold to a developer. This means that the market will close and those who earned their living at market stalls like Grandmother, will be forced to relocate to survive. That is if they can find a place and afford to move.
One possible , partial solution
Grandmother is trying her best to come up with a way to care for her grandchildren. She has approached us with an idea. It seems that Grandmother has access to a tiny plot of land in the countryside about an hour’s drive from Phnom Pennh. This sort of thing is not unusual, a tiny plot big enough for a thatch shack owned by a friend or relative. The land is essentially worthless, too small to farm , but it could provide a just enough space to build a thatch and wood house where the family could live. Homes like this are often just a single large room with no plumbing or electricity. Grandmother estimates that the cost of materials and building would be about $ 300, so she is asking us to consider advancing that money to her to build the home.
There is a garment factory nearby this plot of land and the idea/hope is that the granddaughter could get a factory job with starting wage of about $ 150. This wage combined with the food support we provide of about $ 70 per month could keep the family on track.
We are concerned that the costs of building the house may be higher than estimated. And of course, while we hope Grandmother can live many years longer, the reality is that there is the extremely serious problem of how to care for the grandson when Grandmother is unable to do so. The granddaughter needs to work and so cannot stay at home . The grandson is a toddler in an adult body and cannot be left alone. Unlike the developed world, there is no social safety net to help the family.
The reality is that we can only help this fragile family as best we can for a long as we can and we cannot see a permanent solution. Only time will tell what will happen.....
We remain deeply grateful to you, our wonderful donors for your kind support as we try to work to address the unique needs of each of our fragile families.
Barbara & Mark Rosasco