The Tabitha Savings Program
Poverty is partly an attitudinal and psychological state. In Cambodia, the past 40 years of war, genocide and its aftermath have left people feeling disenfranchised from life itself. The lack of security, the loss of family members, and the loss of their original homes over so many years has resulted in a severe poverty that is both physical and psychological.
In addition to their recent past, several cultural and societal issues result in poverty. Cambodians see their children as an assured method of social security. They believe that their children must take care of their parents in their old age, therefore they have many children.
A second issue arising from this is that when a child gets married, the child will receive a portion of the family land. As their children reach a marriageable age, the land a family owns shrinks to a point where the land can no longer support a family unless the land can bear food throughout the year. Currently, one crop a year is the norm.
A third issue which causes poverty is illness within the family. Whenever a family member becomes very ill, the family begins to sell off what they own in order to find and pay for medical treatment. Usually a family sells its animals, then their land and in severe cases they will sell their Children.
Solutions to the poverty cycle
In order to break the attitudinal and psychological barriers to development, Tabitha focuses on savings. The rationale is that savings is a non threatening way to make choices, a very necessary component for a people who have a very low self esteem; who need to have security and little threat and who must make their own choices without fear from us or others.
All families in Cambodia, no matter how poor have some cash available. They may earn this money by cutting grass to sell to a farmer or collecting discarded plastic bottles and cans. This cash flow is necessary to survive; there is no social security program. Saving a little of this cash flow each week is at the heart of this program.
Dreams and Savings Cycles
The “Community Development through Savings Program” helps families to “dream” of a better future. Families are encouraged to save a small amount each week; this money is collected by the local Tabitha staff. At the end of each 10-week “savings cycle”, the savings are returned. The family is then encouraged to purchase their first “dream” – whether it is drinking glasses, clothes for the baby, or a new tarpaulin to keep the rain off. The Families then continue in the savings program for the next 10-week savings cycle.
Savings enables families to meet their Basic Needs
Savings enables families to provide for their basic needs. Families are able to have items to enable cooking, be able to have bedding and mosquito nets; several sets of clothing per family member, chairs and tables to sit at; etc…
Savings enables families to enhance their Environment
Savings enables families to save for such items as batteries to provide light at night; to purchase water jars for storing water for home use; for building latrines and for their portion of getting a well.
Savings enables families to increase their Sources of Income
Through savings families are able to increase their sources of useable income through the raising of pigs, chickens, ducks; through the development of small businesses; through the growing of vegetables and rice.
Savings enables families to improve their security through the improvement and building of their own homes
Savings enables families to rebuild their homes by purchasing materials and paying for construction labor through the ten week cycles – enabling homes to be rebuilt parts at a time without overwhelming the families with debt.
Savings enables families to achieve transportation and educational opportunities for their children
Through savings families are able to purchase transportation items such as bicycles which allow children to be able to attend school while still be able to help with family chores. Savings enables such items as school uniforms, school supplies and fees to be paid so that children can attend school.
Savings enables a family to celebrate social occasions and to meet crisis without losing all hope
Savings enables families to celebrate special occasions such as New Years in a socially acceptable way without going broke; families are able to celebrate births and deaths; families are able to practice their faith without undo pressure.
The core measurement Tabitha Cambodia uses to measure each family’s progress is called Unit of Change
Units of change are visible, concrete changes a family has achieved through savings. These units are measured each month through Tabitha staff, volunteers and by each individual family. It is the measurement of these changes that ensures a family’s progress over the years until graduation.
Cost of Family Partnerships
Supporting a family in the savings program for a year $A30