Stories of Change

Sam Pho works in the family's garden.

Doing well while also doing good in Cambodia

A year ago, Sek Sok was elected to the Morokot Commune Council in northern Cambodia. Sok, 66, is a retired soldier who lives with his wife, Sam Pho, and their 16-year-old son.

Because Sok agreed to stay permanently in the area of his last army deployment, his family lives on a .75-acre, government-provided lot with a wooden house on it and a small yard. While they are certainly grateful to have the house and yard, the family doesn’t have enough land for significant commercial farming. Instead, they rely on Sok’s Commune Council monthly stipend of $120 as their only income. While this is more than many poor families in this part of Cambodia have, it was still tough for the family to afford to pay all of their expenses, especially school tuition and fees.

When he joined the Commune Council, Sok decided to take advantage of being involved in CWS community development activities. Among other program elements, CWS provides support to Commune Councils like the one Sok was elected to. We also partner with individual families who want to improve their lives as CWS household partners.

Sok started by observing CWS-hosted education workshops where, as a community leader, he improved his knowledge and expanded his experience in understanding micro-business management like mushroom growing, chicken raising and growing vegetables for profit. He also took the time to learn about community health promotion to help the people he represents, too.

After joining several workshops, Sok said, “When I learned about gardening adapted to changing climate conditions in our region, I was inspired by the facilitator to motivate the people [I represent on the Council] to set up vegetable gardens at home. This was mainly because I started to realize that home gardening is important, and a relatively easy way – with some support to start – to help families improve their diet and their income. As my thinking changed, so did my own practice, and I used what I heard and learned to set up a 100m2 (1,075 square feet) vegetable garden on my home plot. For me as a leader, my purpose was not only for my family to have more and different vegetable and additional income; but it was also to show to my people and encourage them to do the same. It was great that I could share practical knowledge and my own new experience with them.”

Sok’s hard work is starting to pay off for his family. “The first time I sold the extra produce from my garden, I earned $115,” he said. “I was happy, as I could use the money to buy chickens and ducks, and I could plan to expand my garden to increase my income even more so that I can save for my son to continue higher education.” He added, “I am so thankful for this partnership with CWS, which has been helping me better lead my community and improve my own life.”