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Happily Made Village helping sisters in Phnom Penh secure employment.

I’d like to share a bit more about the two sisters that the Happily Made village has been supporting the past few months. I’ve realised that a lot of people haven’t heard about it, and the ones that have mostly only know snippets. So hopefully this will give a clearer idea of what’s happening before I go and visit with them in Phnom Penh.

A few months ago I asked Kanary (the lady who runs the sewing group that I order Pocket Bags from) if she could tell me a bit about each of the women that she has trained and employs. I have only been supporting them since my last visit to Cambodia and wanted to become more familiar with the group. 

So through this I found out that one of the women that has been sewing for a few years has a sister that recently moved in with her three children because her husband had passed away in May from kidney disease. The sister works full time in a garment factory (sweatshop) from 7am to 7pm and then comes home and borrows a neighbour’s sewing machine so she can do some extra work to earn more money. 

I immediately thought that this was something that the Happily Made village could easily help out with and within a couple of days we had enough money to pay for a sewing machine. We had a bit extra money so I asked Kanary to spend that on any school costs that the family has. She then mentioned that the oldest daughter who’s in year 12 has been struggling with her mental health quite severely since her dad passed away and asked if the money could instead be used for medical care which of course I agreed with.

I had asked if they could share a photo once the sewing machine arrived so I could show everyone who had helped pay for it. When those photos came through I was really confronted with the condition of the home that they live in. I asked Kanary about it and she confirmed that yes, the house was really in a terrible state and she had been really shocked as well and hadn’t realised how serious it was. Not only were there no windows. But not even any security bars which was making the daughters feel very unsafe.The rain would pour through (you have no idea how crazy the rain is in Cambodia. I’ve never experienced anything like it) and soak all their belongings. And I didn’t mention this on my posts but they also had rats running through. 

I just knew that the Happily Made village would jump at being to help with something so practical, and sure enough! Within only a few days we had the money needed. It took a few weeks for the builders to complete the job. But once it was done the family not only had security windows and waterproof ceiling. They also had some insulation put in which will help with the hot weather. Oh and we also paid for new bedding since everything was mouldy. 

It’s such a huge improvement and the family is incredibly grateful. Unfortunately my excitement very quickly disappeared when Kanary told me that when she went to visit the family to take photos for me she realised that the 14 year old daughter has left school. It turns out that when the dad was in hospital the mother had taken out some micro loans to help pay for the medical costs and then the funeral as well. She doesn’t know how to read or write and of course had no understanding of the interest she would need to be paying down the track.  It’s such a horrible situation for this family and I totally understand why they felt that the only answer was for the second oldest daughter to quit school to pay off the loan. As it turns out what she would be earning wouldn’t cover the monthly interest fees and this family would just go further and further into debt. 

Again I put the word out for people to help and it took a little bit longer this time so I covered the extra bit needed myself (although I did have two extra donations come through later thankfully). 

I will be visiting this family when I fly to Phnom Penh to see how else we can support them. I know that Kanary is being very humble in letting me know the needs since she doesn’t want to come across as asking a lot. One of my goals from the crowdfunding campaign is having enough money so that I can offer for the sister to stop working at the garment factory and instead work from home full time. This will also help the children who are struggling so much since their dad passed away and having their mother with them at home. I never know if I will receive enough orders so it’s too risky for me to base it around that. Instead if I can give Kanary two years of wages in advance that she can then pay out monthly to the sisters. That way it’s sustainable and no risk on them. I then hope to come up with a products that’s easy for the sisters to make that I can hopefully sell big amounts of. At this stage I’m thinking of the coin purses they already make but having them in darker colours and using a clip so they can be used as a pouch for dog poo bags & treats. (I’m open for other suggestions as well).

I hope that explains more about the situation and inspires you to get involved with sharing with others about how big a difference very little can make.