By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010
The bridge leading into Koh Kong is a symbol of the development that the southwestern province of Cambodia is experiencing. Five years ago, travellers comingfrom the country’s capital Phnom Penh endured unsealed roads and small ferries atfour of the river crossings. Now, new bridges link the rest of Cambodia to Koh Kong,and onwards across the border to Thailand.
Underneath the bridge at Andoung Tuek village, 18 year-old Mary comes eachmorning to buy fish from the many fishermen in the village. Then, she takes herproduce onto the market for sale. Fish mongering is a big part of her family’s life –her mother has sold fish since her father became too sick to work one year ago, andher brother is a fisherman. Mary herself used to spend the early hours of the morningin the sea fishing, before she had the skills to manage a small business.
Mary is a participant in CARE’s WE BLOOM program, which is providing marginalised youth – particularly women – who did not have the opportunity to finishschool, with literacy and numeracy training and advice on setting goals, gainingconfidence and how to run a small business. Once she had completed the courses,Mary received a business grant from CARE which she has used to build her mother’sbusiness, which they now work in together.
‘My mother helps me because I don’t have enough experience, so sometimes shecomes to help with weighing and selling the fish,’ Mary explains. It’s not just Marywho is learning new skills though – her mother is impressed with the businessknowledge her daughter has gained. ‘After having done the training course, we haveincreased the sale of fish by about 20 per cent,’ Mary says. ‘I am very happybecause now I can help my family with income and also keep some of my own. Ofthe profit I have gained I have kept some and I will use it to buy clothes and covershared expenses. My family thinks I am a brave person and I have changed with theskills I have learned.
’Mary’s family could not afford to pay for her to complete primary school – and sheonly made it as far as fourth grade and before joining the program, could not read or write well. Learning literacy and numeracy skills has given her the power to manageher business and newly generated income.
‘Now that I have finished the literacy course I can read and write better. For my fishselling I need to write down some records. Before, I didn’t know how to write and itwas very hard, but now I know and I can do it much better,’ she says.
She is much happier now, to be selling fish instead of catching them. ‘I like sellingfish more than my previous work because fishing is hazardous. Now that I sell fishit’s safer,’ she says.
Despite her increase in income, Mary has maintained a humble outlook about herfuture, saying ‘I hope my business will make progress in the future and that I can livein the village with my family. I would like my family to have a medium living standard– not too poor and not too rich.’