This is my fifth consecutive year participating in a forPEACE Service Learning Expedition. From the beginning I have been fascinated and impressed by the savings model promoted by Tabitha--our sister NGO here in Cambodia, with whom we serve. During this last week, Margret, Kaisamaija and I have had the opportunity to visit with and interview a number of families who are committed to the savings program, including those who have only recently joined the program as well as those who have been participating for seven to eight years.
As an anthropologist, I have been delighted to learn of individuals' stories of struggle and triumph.
We will discuss the savings program in much greater detail over the coming week (both in person and through the blog), but from the onset let me say that I am convinced that this program truly works as a means to eliminate poverty among individual families who dedicate themselves to the process. Saving roughly .75 cents per week for ten weeks, and then using that money to purchase needed items--including those that will eventually enable a family to expand their sources of income (livestock, agriculture, entrepreneurial businesses, etc.) is not a quick fix. Often in the field of development, NGOs or governments want to see timely results, but the savings program is a test of patience. Nevertheless, the miracle of the program is that within five to seven years, families can in fact loosen the grip of poverty, and establish themselves as rural, middle-class Cambodians. Each of the families with whom we spoke reminded us, they were gaining financial stability, bit by bit. And that is a miracle worth working towards.
I hope that each of your will be able to experience for yourselves the strength and ingenuity of the savings program, of which, as promised, we will discuss in greater detail throughout the Expedition.
I look forward to meeting you all in the next day or two!