Savings – the cornerstone of our work

Dear friends and partners,

We are celebrating our program year end – and what an amazing year that we have had.  We worked with 60,856 families – 486,848 dependents.  So much has happened and continues to happen that I thought, this year I would take the time to explain various aspects of our programs and the results.  This means I will be sending you several newsletters over the next few days – celebrating our work.

I want to start with savings and why it is the cornerstone of all of our work.  Our work is focused on the poorest of the poor.  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, therefore they have many children.

Savings are the cornerstone of our work

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 the year.  Currently, 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.  Usually a family sells its animals, then their land and in severe cases they will sell their children.

In order to break the attitudinal and psychological barriers to development, we focus on savings.  The rationale is that savings is a non threatening way to make choices, a very necessary component for a people who have a very low self esteem; who need to have security with little threat and who must make their own choices without fear from us or others.

With savings, our families save a small amount of money each week – they save for ten weeks – we return their money to them and pay them 10% interest – we do this to recognize the courage and strength it takes for each person to make a positive choice – to risk having  a dream after so many years of no dreams.

Our families saved an astonishing $2,680,461.98 through their weekly .25 cents savings.  Amazingly these savings turned into 9 million dollars worth of purchases and units of changes for our families.

For example: there were 102,670 changes in basic needs – needs such as at least two nutritious meals per day; basic needs such as pots and pans, blankets, mosquito nets, needs such as clothing.  31,805 families were able to improve their security through the improvement of their housing; through the building of latrines; through the gift of light by purchasing batteries.

Savings are the cornerstone of our work

13,799 families were able to buy some form of transportation while all of our families (64,330 units of income generation) were enabled to increase their incomes through small businesses, farming and animal husbandry.

Savings are the cornerstone of our work

There is so much to share.  Plans for the next 12 months include reaching out to 79,876 families with 639,008 dependents.  Unbelievable!  I am so very thankful and humbled by my staff – people who are unceasing in their efforts.  I thank my God for this privilege in life.  I thank my God for each of you who stand with all of these families in Cambodia.

Janne Ritskes