Left to Right - Mr Rithy, Chief of Operations, Bony and Norm, housekeeping, and Ms. Sive Chheng, Deputy Operations Officer celebrate Maxima's 10th Birthday!

If you think YOU work hard (well, you probably do) but so does my MFI….

I am a Kiva Fellow currently volunteering with one of Kiva’s Micorfinance Partner’s, Maxima, in Cambodia. MAXIMA MIKROHERANHVATHO CO., LTD was founded in March 2000 by a group of friends experienced in financial services.  They began their micro credit operations in Koh Dach commune, Kandal province, also known as Silk Island. Last Monday March 8th 2010, International Women’s Day, Maxima – 50 employees strong, celebrated it’s 10th Birthday. For an organization who helps a substantial amount of women (63%) gain access to credit and employs 17 women (34%) (*including 4 female credit officers) it was a fitting day for a birthday celebration. As the Deputy Chief Officer, Ms Sive Chheng, blew out the candles and wished to be standing in the same spot in 20, 30, and 40 years!

*The job of credit officer is  usually reserved for men due to the risk involved.

There are so many way to describe the people behind Maxima, but the one that often rises to the top is – dedicated. Office employees work long hours 7:30am – 6:30 pm with about a half hour break for lunch. Most employees are in their early twenties and work to pay for university, english lessons (this is not part of the university curriculum) and contribute to the family income. Straight after work staff members go to school to complete their university degrees and study English. (I don’t want to get into a “Why are micro-finance interest rates so high – debate,” but it’s worth mentioning that the some of the interest paid by borrowers on their loans goes to these amazing people’s salaries! Many of whom risk their lives daily to collect payments, facing dangerous traffic – I read somewhere that over 1100 people died on mottos last year- and the risk of being robbed. For more on that.. you can start your reading with, Bad Roads, Interst Rates, and MFI sustainability by Kiva Fellow Meg Gray, KF9 Nicaragua and then search interest rates on the Kiva Fellows blog there are a ton of posts).

Anyway, I was in the field last week with a Maxima Credit Officer. It was hot and I was sweating profusely, he was hot – repeatedly saying “Kdov” (the Khmer word for hot).  Then, to my shock and horror, he put on his jacket. I thought to my self,  “Why? He already has a long sleeve shirt on to protect him from the sun.” So I asked, and he replied, “Hoy na (it’s dusty) I have to go the school after work and I don’t want to be dirty.” Sitting in the intense heat, all I could think about was getting back to the AC in Phnom Penh, sleeping, and spending the next day in the office. He was heading back to the office for a meeting after his field work (and on this day – carting around a tall American woman and speaking in another language) then to school for 3 hours, and home to sleep with no AC…only to rise and do it all again.The credit officers and office staff work hard and when they finish their degrees some stay with the organization and some do not.

And last but not least let me not forget the people who made it all happen – the founders – who have been working 10 hour days, every day, for 10 years all the way through! You are an inspiration – thank you.

Mary Riedel, KF 10 is happy to be at Maxima working with extraordinary people in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Help  Maxima celebrate it’s 10th birthday by joining the Fan Club (lending team) or loaning to Maxima borrowers.


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