Microfinance – Bryan Hochwald
My time at Khemara working on the Income Generation project has been a great experience. I came from the U.S. with the hope of sharing my knowledge with the local Cambodian people and the beneficiaries of the Income Generation Project. I quickly found that it isn’t just about providing loans to businesses in the struggling parts of Phnom Penh, but about creating a partnership with those businesses and their owners. Not only did we provide necessary capital for the businesses, we got to know the people behind the businesses, the challenges they faced in the community, and how they adapt to the rapidly developing economic environment in Cambodia.
When I arrived, it became clear how the various projects at Khemara tie in together, especially the symbiotic relationship between the childcare centers and the Income Generation project. Khemara runs various childcare centers throughout Phnom Penh and other provinces, and it is through
this network of centers that we found the majority of our beneficiaries. These centers provided the mothers of the childcare students the opportunity to restart an old business or begin a new one, rather than remain at home taking care of their children. Through this, the microloans allowed beneficiaries to begin generating small, but meaningful, amounts of money.
While I was with Khemara, I was able to see how much the beneficiaries appreciated the deeply personal relationship over the first year of their loans. Through the basic business training and biweekly meetings that we ran with our beneficiaries, I was able to understand their challenges more clearly, and show them that we didn’t only care about the dollars, but also cared about them! The end goal was to make these small businesses sustainable, and the individualized training helped equip them not only for their immediate challenges, but also to give them a blueprint to provide for their family long into the future without the help of Khemara. These frequent meetings also gave me an insight into the personal lives of each beneficiary. This candid view of each beneficiary was an enlightening experience that allowed me to empathize with the challenges of the local community. Learning about the life of each beneficiary allowed me to see what a difference the loan makes for each of them. These are truly amazing people with a great amount of ambition to provide more for their families. I can see how the beneficiaries’ hard work and persistence to make the most of the loan and advice provided by the Income Generation Project staff gives them the framework to continue building a thriving business into the future.