Why I started a social enterprise for mothers in Cambodia - Happily Made

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Why I started a social enterprise for mothers in Cambodia

Cambodian Fabric Market

The other day a Facebook memory from 9 years ago popped up on my computer screen.
“Veronica isn’t coping with the poverty.”
Just one short status I wrote very soon after arriving in Cambodia.
Then yesterday another Facebook memory popped up, this time from 8 years ago.
It’s a photo of me digging through a pile of fabric at a street market in Phnom Penh. My mother was visiting
from Sweden and she had joined me for the day and captured what at the time felt like a mundane moment.

These little glimpses into my life that now feels so distant, triggers a lot of emotions.
Ironically we had moved to Cambodia to spend more time as a family and to create a more meaningful existence.
My intention was never to set up a social enterprise or an ethical business, I had totally assumed that any contribution to a greater cause would come from my then husband who is a gifted engineer and had lots of skills to volunteer with.
I would be looking after our four children and try to somehow survive the humidity.

Looking back now I remember so clearly wishing there was something I could do to help with the poverty that seemed to be
tugging at my heart from every corner. The problem felt way too big and I felt clumsy as a foreigner thinking I had anything to offer. I quickly realised that there was so much more to fixing poverty than just handing someone a bit of money.

The two memories that I was reminded of were only a year apart, yet in that year I went from feeling so hopeless and overwhelmed by the unfairness to feeling as if I was able to contribute in a small way.
To be honest, the sewing project that started in our home in a tiny village in southern Cambodia wasn’t sustainable. I had no idea how to run a business and I was overpaying the seamstresses which I quickly learned was doing more damage than good. In my desire to make a difference I overlooked some basic elements of running a sustainable business.

Not long after my mother took the photo of me in the Phnom Penh market I met Monika from Cambodia Knits, and not long after that a little monkey appeared to me while on the back of a tuk-tuk.

When I reflect back on what has kept me going these past few years, through my marriage ending, some pretty traumatic health issues and trying to create a new life for myself in Melbourne,
I honestly believe that what has kept me going is that initial status I posted on Facebook a lifetime ago.
“Veronica isn’t coping with the poverty.”

I may no longer be surrounded by the poverty, but the faces of the people I met in Cambodia are still etched in my mind’s eye. Thankfully my days of searching for fabric are a distant memory but I will continue doing what I can from the comfort of Melbourne to make a difference.