Chicks and Dirt Roads
On Friday, Sophanith, Elena and I went to visit the Thea Chhin group, to do a journal on the group leader, Thea Chhin. The journey to Sala Khom Village was quite long. We left AMK‘s central office in Phnom Penh early in the morning and the drive to the branch office in Kampong Chhnang took about an hour. There we were greeted by the branch manager and we switched from our car to a pickup truck that was able to handle the village roads. As soon as our truck started driving on dirt roads, I was reminded of a road trip I took during college with my friends to Havasupai Canyon in Arizona. To get to the canyon we had to take a dirt road that was labeled “primitive road.” There was no such sign in Sala Khom Village.
After another hour of driving, we arrived at the house of the village bank president where we were informed the village bank was meeting a few hours later. The VB president is elected by the other village bank borrowers. They organize village bank meetings and handle problems that villagers have with repayments or interest rates. While we were waiting I took some pictures of chicks (the animal type!) for KivaFriends members to enjoy.
As the clients started to trickle in, eventually Thea Chhin arrived. She is currently pregnant and is expecting a child in September. Sophanith interviewed her using a questionnaire form Elena developed with him. Hopefully this questionnaire will be used by loan officers as they interview clients for future journals. (At AMK we are still working on integrating Kiva’s needs into their business structure). I took a picture of her and she smiled! Adam, an Australian volunteer for AMK who does a lot of graphic design work for them, has been taking pictures of Cambodians but has had a hard time getting them to smile. When Cambodians pose for pictures they usually have a serious face (like in the business description).
I wasn’t able to get a picture of her with her business, because she was busy at the village bank meeting. On my next visit to a village I’ll try to get pictures of clients next to their businesses.
This is the journal update I wrote on Thea Chhin which describes how the loan has changed her life:
With the loan that she borrowed, Mrs. Thea Chhin was able to buy more vegetables to resell and her husband was able to buy more parts for his motorcycle business. This increased their profits which has improved the living conditions of her family. She has also bought some kitchen equipment. Her three children are doing well; two are working at the same jobs that they had, while the other is still in school. Mrs. Chinn is currently saving some of her money because she is expecting another child in September. The rest of the group is also doing well. Another member has bought fruits from Poy Peth and vegetables from Phnom Penh to sell at the local market. This is an end-of-term loan, so Mrs. Chinn has not made any payments on the principal, but next month she will have to repay the loan in full. She has made every monthly interest payment on time, as has the rest of the group.
Just so you know AMK’s default rate is virtually zero. The few loans that are not repaid (less than 0.1%) are mostly those that are written off due to the death of the entrepreneur.