Why Cambodia?

map of cambodiaCambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. We work with the poorest members of each community, encouraging them to save and work their way out of poverty. Many poor Cambodian families have no house and virtually no possessions. Despite this, most generate a meager weekly income. Families starting with Tabitha earn less than $1/day.

Recovering from Pol Pot era

During the Pol Pot era (1975-1979), the Cambodian people were decimated by a regime that promoted enforced starvation, mass executions, slave labour and wholesale dislocation.  Everything was destroyed: family and social structure, infrastructure and spirituality.  The resulting trauma of that period has left many Cambodian people with a feeling of hopelessness and futility.  We believe that to break the cycle of poverty you must first help the people to believe in themselves.  An important aspect of this is to break the cycle of personal debt.

Droughts and floods make it hard to sustain life

Cambodia has temperate weather for 6 months of the year;  during this time families can build their lives.  The other 6 months of the year offers severe droughts and floods, dramatically impacting a family’s ability to have a sustainable lifestyle. During times of flood, families often lose their food, animals and clothing—they are reduced to absolute poverty. During times of drought, the crops fail and animals fail to thrive, leaving people with inadequate food supplies and a loss of their income source.

Break the cycle of personal debt

Whether the situation is one of flood or drought, families need to borrow to start again; however, they are usually in debt from previous seasons. It is a vicious and demoralizing cycle, especially if they have been left without land, a house, or other asset to use as collateral. The spiritual aspect of unpaid debt often causes feelings of deep depression because, as Buddhists, they believe if they die in debt they will be reincarnated in a lower life form.

Break the cycle of poverty

To break the cycle of poverty, we have worked with 470,000 families in our savings program over 20 years.


Population: 14.3 million
Life expectancy: 63.7 years (vs 81.2 years in Canada)
Infant mortality:  5.3% of live births (vs .5% in Canada)
Rate of tuberculosis:  424 per 100,000 (vs Canada 5 per 100,000)
80% live in rural areas (vs 20% in Canada)
37% of GDP is dependent upon agriculture (vs 1.7% in Canada)
50% of females are in the workforce
Capital: Phnom Penh livability rank 51.4 (vs Toronto at 97.2).  79% of urban population lives in a slum.

Source:  The Economist, Pocket World in Figures,  2014 Edition.