The Tabitha Foundation has pioneered the use of micro-savings as the means for helping participants escape poverty.
The Family Savings Programme is at the heart of Tabitha’s work and is best described as community development focused on families. Participation in the programme is a prerequisite for any Cambodian to take part in any of the other Tabitha programmes.
The majority of Cambodian families have virtually no possessions – perhaps one old set of clothes per person, one drinking cup to share, and a thatched shelter. Despite this, most families generate a meagre income, which may be earned by collecting and selling empty plastic bottles or cutting grass to sell to a farmer. It can be difficult for families to break out of this poverty cycle.
The Tabitha Family Savings Programme provides a means to do this, working side by side with the community and families.
In a very simple self-help programme, families commit to save a certain amount for a 10-week cycle. Prior to the start of the first cycle, Tabitha staff members help families develop a vision of a better life and each family decides what will be their savings goal. ‘Dream’ items can include the barest essentials such as a towel, a blanket, a cooking pot, or a three-month supply of rice. Family savings are collected weekly by Tabitha workers and returned at the end of each 10-week cycle.
Sample savings progression:
- Family begins by saving 25 cents per week
- Savings after 10 weeks = $2.50
- Family now has $2.50
- Family buys 5 baby chicks at .50 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 for $10
- Family buys second-hand clothes for children
- Family saves $5.00 per week = $50.00
- Sells 20 chickens = $200
- Plants seed for garden
- Buys water pump for $190
Saving as little as 25 cents per week allows the purchase of life-transforming items. Families save for income-producing items such as a fishing net, piglets, chickens, oxen, a watering can, or a bicycle to take produce to market. This, in turn, brings the family a stable food supply and regular income – sometimes for the first time – and allows for steadily increasing weekly savings.
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 enables parents to send their children to school for the first time.