[Original by Mariko OMURA, Cambodia Project (May 18, 2021); Translated by E. Miyazaki/M. Olagoke]
Hello, this is Mariko Omura from Cambodia. The three-week lockdown finally ended on May 6 except for certain regions! I will finally be able to return to our project site near Siem Reap soon. I thought that the restriction on selling alcohol would also end at the same time, so I drank all the beer stocked at home. But I found out that the restriction will continue until May 22. Oh well…
She did it on her own for her son! Ms. Sok Soth.
I would like to report about what happened after we were so busy with dry herbs! I have already reported in my previous blog post that Ms. Bopper, a participant in the training of dry herb processing, was able to buy a new bicycle she longed for so much.
The story this time is about Ms. Sok Soth and her bright smile. She started taking JVC’s trainings several years ago, and recently has been participating in the dry herbs’ trainings diligently. She temporarily works at a farm near her house, where she takes care of the crops (the farm’s owner lives in Siem Reap). So, she negotiated with the owner and started growing herbs in the farm, which she can ship as ingredients of herb tea.
She grew globe amaranth with enthusiasm. When the Demeter factory placed orders from the end of December through to January, she earned US$ 100 in two shipments. This equals to a month’s worth of income at the farm.
‘I could buy a school uniform for my son and send him to supplementary classes. Until then, he couldn’t participate in such activities. I myself can’t read nor write, so I struggled to help him with his homework and sometimes cried. But now I can earn money to give him a better life!’, said Ms. Sok Soth with a happy face. I will never forget her great smile. I interviewed her on a later day, so I will share the video in the near future.
My husband passed away, but … Ms. Heng Soeung.
Ms. Heng Soeung used to participate in the dry herb trainings with her husband during their spare time. One day however, her husband fell out of a tree when he was trying to pick a fruit and died. She was so depressed that we hesitated to go up and talk to her. She stayed quiet at home for a while. Our staff visited her home several times, but it was a very sad period.
A few months later, we received a purchase order from the Demeter factory. Ms. Heng Soeung grows a lot of ginger at home, so we contacted her to see if she was interested. She responded, I want to try, for the first time in several months. She participated in our training again and shipped dry ginger twice. She earned about US$ 150 in the shipments. This is the smile she showed when she received her gain…
‘I was in great grief and couldn’t do anything after my husband was gone. My relatives gave me support for my daily life. However, when I heard about the dry ginger training, I felt that I must move forward, and was determined to participate. I’m very happy to find that there is something I can do. I could earn money like this! I want to buy a cage for chickens and start raising them with this money. I am sad that my husband is not with me, but I want to overcome this sadness.’
When I heard her say this and when I heard that Ms. Bopper bought a new bicycle and that Ms. Sok Soth could do many things for her son, I found a kind of confidence bursting out from their faces and behaviors. It is more than making money. Their facial expressions changed. I was greatly encouraged to know that people can become more positive when they are able to do something with their own efforts.
Also, isn’t Demeter so great? Running a business that brings smiles to these women’s faces! According to their homepage, their mission is to support everyone who is involved so that they can create their future lives with hope and confidence, and this is exactly what they are doing. I am happy to have found a wonderful partner and to be able to work as a team of villagers, NGO, and a business firm, utilizing each other’s strengths.
Producing and shipping by themselves!
The villagers now process 15 kinds of dry herbs as ingredients of tea and ship them by themselves to Phnom Penh (see photos). You can purchase the products from here.
The dry herbs are finally processed into products by hand at the factory.