Public interest, by Una McCaffrey reports

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lay Heang sits proudly on the makeshift porch of her tiny shop, carefully eyeing the villagers who are crowding around, just to make sure she’s not missing any business. The chances of this are slim, as hers is the only snack shop in this settlement of 300 people, but, as Heang knows, success requires constant effort and attention to detail. She is 53, a ripe old age for Cambodia, where the life expectancy for women is 59, and has seen so many hard days that she is taking no risks when things are getting better. Her display of just six packs of cheap cigarettes and a handful of bags of sweets is all that stands between her and the poverty that threatens 13 million Cambodians.

Heang is one of about 20,000 people in the grandly named but underdeveloped Kingdom of Cambodia who, over the past decade, have begun to borrow money from Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea, a new kind of institution that has come about through the efforts of Concern. The Irish charity has been working with Cambodians since 1979, when the brutal Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown and hundreds of thousands of the country’s people spilled into refugee camps in Thailand. Little by little, Concern’s work led it into the kingdom itself, where the charity’s offerings are constantly adapting to the ravaged country’s developing needs. Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea (AMK), which lends cash to economically active poor people, is the latest stage in this progression.
Story found here.

Source: Irish Times