Noung’s husband lost his leg to a landmine over 30 years ago, leaving her to be the main bread winner for her family. The 60-year-old mother-of-four, who is from the Cham ethnic minority, works long hours on a big fishing boat to earn $2.50-$5 a day. But this isn’t always enough to pay for medical costs for her husband, who is frequently sick and often incurs bills of up to $50 a month.
To make extra cash they try to fish together from a small boat when they can, but this isn’t reliable and sometimes they find it hard to make ends meet. Previously, when they had a medical emergency Nuong would have no option other than to ask her boss for a loan.
She has no property of her own—nothing to use as collateral other than herself. She would have to work until the loan was paid off, in debt to her boss until she could start earning income again.
This all changed when Nuong joined a Village Savings and Loans Association in 2014. By saving just $1.25 each week, she could access small loans from the group’s capital if she had an emergency. “The VSLA makes it easy to get a loan and allows me time to pay it back,” Noung shares. “But not only does it make life easier when we need money for medical costs now, it also helps us to save.”
At the end of nine months of saving, Nuong received a lump sum of cash back from the group before starting a new cycle of saving. The family used this money to purchase better nets for supplementing their income with fishing and kept the rest for future health needs.
“I feel much happier now that I have some savings and I know that I can get money if we need it,” says Nuong with a smile.
She won’t stop there. Nuong proudly shows off the hammocks she has been making from broken fishing nets and has started selling in her community. With the VSLA as her own safety net, she can explore other ways in which she can continue to meet the needs of her family.
These activities are part of the Local Economic Leadership project, funded by the Australian Government, and the P.A.C.E. in the Community project, funded by Gap Inc.