A few years ago, Chun Ul was a newcomer to the community of Ta Siem, Cambodia. But she hasn’t let that stop her from becoming a key leader in her community, setting an example for others to follow!
By joining a Savings group, Chun Ul has taken on the challenge of opening up a kiosk selling delicious cakes and snacks to supplement her household income. She’s proud of the work she’s done, but believes the best is yet to come!
Noeun: What was your life like before FH began walking with Ta Siem?
Chun: Before we joined FH programs, our family was so lonely and quiet. We were new to the community, and we found it difficult to connect with others, especially those who were not friendly. Because of our poor living conditions, we lacked the money to spend for other costs and we were not bold enough to borrow from and depend on anyone in the community. As for community development activities, we didn’t have time to focus on those because our financial crisis kept increasing. My eldest son was afraid of other children, shy toward everyone, and less courageous and harmonious because of our family’s place in the community.
Noeun: How did you begin to get involved with FH’s programs?
Chun: Our village chief called me to attend a meeting with FH staff. When their team selected volunteers for village committees, I was chosen! After I volunteered in the health sector and participated in various training and activities for more than a year, I became a Health Group Volunteer for the mothers group. Since I joined FH six years ago, I have participated in many training and sharing sessions such as leadership training, health and nutrition, babysitting and creating materials for toddlers, motivation, and encouraging children to go to school and do self-study at home, making space for children at home, the importance of saving money in the village, making tippy tap, making rubbish bins, trash pit and hygiene kits! I can apply all this to my life and pass them to neighbours as well.
Noeun: It sounds like you’ve been able to learn a lot. How has this impacted your life?
Chun: My life has changed so much! These good opportunities, knowledge, and skills have been a blessing for me and my family. As a child, I could not go to school because my parents could not afford to send me. But now with FH, I’ve gone from someone who did not know much to someone who is able to share with my community. This really makes life better! My family lives happier through these behaviour and mindset changes. The way we live our lives also changed. We now drink clean water, help children to be healthier and motivate them to study, and have a good relationship with others. My family is now more active in attending community meetings and training. More importantly, we are motivated by FH staff who always come to visit my family. I feel warmth after the other committees and villagers gave value to my family and treat us with high respect. I have contributed to saving money in my village, which makes it easier for my family to extend our small business in selling groceries. In the beginning, I started selling only a few Khmer cakes in a small stall, but now I upgraded to a large stall and combined a variety of goods that can meet other families’ needs.
Noeun: What about your community? What are the biggest changes there?
Chun: Relationships in our community have improved so much because now we participate in activities together, especially between the young and the elderly. There is more unity than before through the community development activities such as fencing community ponds and participating in pavilion construction in the village, which all bring a lot of convenience to each family. The environment in the community is almost 100% clean. Each house has garbage bins and toilets, and most people in the community eat nutritious food and live with good hygiene.
Noeun: What has changed in your family?
Chun: Everything in my family has changed. We live, eat, and drink well. Now, I have more courage to advise my neighbors to send their children to school and encourage parents to help teach their children at home after class. Before, I did not dare to talk to anyone because I did not have much education or any specific skills. This changed after I received more knowledge and encouragement from FH staff and other group members. I’m no longer afraid to share my ideas or advise neighbors anymore. I also have started to be involved with other community leaders in community development activities.
Noeun: How do you feel about all the progress you’re seeing in your family and community?
Chun: It makes me feel excited and happy! FH staff understand the value of each of us, including myself. I never thought that my family would have a greater opportunity for such good knowledge and life skills. I used to think that knowledge was only in school, but the FH program changed this perception. I really thank FH and who always bring different knowledge and educational messages to my community. Despite the pandemic, they are still here to help us understand how to prevent contracting this virus, and encourage our children to continue their studying at home or learn online although their schools remain closed.
Noeun: Is there anything in your community you’d like to see more progress in?
Chun: There are still some shortcomings that I want to see changed in my community! I want everyone to join hands with each other on a common goal, in order to transform this community holistically. Every child should be in school. I also want my community to understand the importance of saving money, which allows us to easily get a loan to expand our business. And for my family, I hope for a better life in the coming years, life with happiness and health! Thanks to a combined effort from FH Cambodia staff, the community of Ta Siem, and generous Canadian donors, Chun Ui and her family are thriving! For more stories on the transformation in FH Canada partner communities, go to fhcanada.org/blog.