Stories of Change

Proeung Moeuk and his siblings.

A rice bank helps ease a young family’s burden in Cambodia

Illness took Proeung Se’s parents from him in 2014 and 2016. Now 21, Se suddenly became the adult in charge of his four younger siblings.

With few options available to make sure his family had enough to eat, Se left to work as a laborer on the Cambodian-Thai border. His 17-year-old brother, Proeung Moeuk, dropped out of school to care for the younger children, who range from 7 to 14 and are all students. Se sends about $65 home to his siblings each month to help cover basic needs.

Unfortunately, $65 usually isn’t enough. Especially during the three months of shortage each year, the children had to borrow money from neighbors to buy food – usually rice, which is the core of their diet.

A few months ago, the local partner that CWS supports started working with the Village Development Committee in the village in Battambang province where Moeuk and his siblings live. Our partner was trying to identify families facing extreme vulnerabilities and find ways to help them cope with their most immediate challenges. Moeuk’s family was prioritized, and one of the first needs identified was for a rice bank. Many families here – not just Moeuk and Se’s – face a food shortage during the annual planting season.

Having identified how we could best help the community’s families put food on their tables year round, CWS supported the start-up of two rice banks that have a total of 51 members. Moeuk and his brothers and sisters can get rice from the community rice bank during that three-month shortage period so that they have something to eat. They can repay the bank with cash, since they don’t plant or harvest their own rice. And all at a low cost that eases the family’s financial burden.

“I am so very happy and grateful for the rice bank, so I do not worry so much,” Moeuk told our team. “I can go out to work, too, to help ease my older brother’s burden. Thank you so much for the support.”

One of the heads of the rice bank committee, Lao Phalla, echoed Moeuk’s sentiment. “Thank you so much for supporting the right to food for the people in my village. The rice bank has a significant impact for poor families who can borrow rice during the months of shortage each year before harvest season,” Phalla said.