By Stephanie Sibal, KF14, Cambodia
My first couple of weeks serving as a Kiva Fellow in Cambodia were in many ways, a true shock to my system. The country’s capital, Phnom Penh, is a dizzy blur of lights, motorbikes, colonial-inspired architecture, and savory street food aromas that take some getting used to. However, nothing snaps a Kiva Fellow out of homesickness faster than a visit (or two) to the field. While working with CREDIT, one of Kiva’s oldest partners in Cambodia, I had the pleasure of leaving the busy city life two visit two borrowers in rural provinces.
Cambodia’s Kandal province completely surrounds Phnom Penh and is an area known for its garment production. Varying sizes of pagodas (or wat as they are commonly referred to in Cambodia) are scattered throughout the National Road. The borrower we set out to visit lived roughly 30 minutes from central Phnom Penh. The smooth, paved city streets gave way to dusty, slightly-tread dirt roads quickly.
Lun’s main business? Mangoes, one of the most revered fruit in Southeast Asia.
Working with a couple of trees on her family’s lot, Lun picks mangoes and travels to the market several times a week to sell mangoes, earning roughly $3 per day. Lun’s loan allowed her to purchase more mango tree saplings. However, she will have to wait nearly a year until they are fully grown and ready to produce fruit.
Not lacking in entrepreneurial vision, Lun has also set up a small shop selling meatballs, which she and her daughter run. They sell their meatballs in front of a small store.
I also had the good fortune of accompanying CREDIT on a visit to a borrower in Siem Reap, world-renowned for Angkor Wat and a host of ancient temples with intricate Buddhist stone sculptures. Starting out at CREDIT’s Siem Reap branch, we used the pre-Google Maps method to reach the borrower’s house.
Em is the wife of a moto driver, a huge smile accompanies her endearing hospitality. She quickly arranged chairs for us to sit on. When I asked her how old she was, she laughed and said “I’m getting older and more forgetful. Maybe 55?”
Having used her loan for spare parts to keep the family’s transportation business running, she also focused on her children’s education. She delights in telling me that her loan is paid off in full nearly a month before her final payment is due, and one of her children now attends medical school in the capital. I could see why she was beaming.
The long trips and the lingering dust in my eyes felt worthwhile to get these intimate views of the impact of a microloan.
Stephanie Sibal is a Kiva Fellow working with MAXIMA Mikheranhvatho Co Ltd and CREDIT (A World Relief Partner) in Cambodia. Want to be a part of the Kiva Fellows program? Learn more and apply to be a Kiva Fellow.
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