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Empowering Individuals, Improving Lives

May Vin on a weaving loom

"I would like to work at SWDC for many years to come." - May Vin

Before coming to SWDC, 25 year old May Vin lived with her mother, father and 6 siblings. She studied in school up to Grade 7 and then had to stop her studies in order to help her family with their rice farming duties. May Vin assumed that rice farming was all there was for her until she heard about SWDC through some women as they passed through her village.

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Nuon Srey Nim on the ikat table

"I have become the breadwinner of my family." - Nuon Srey Nim

Nuon Srey Nim is a 24 year old woman working at SWDC. Before coming to SWDC back in 2002, her life was quite difficult. She lived with her family, but upon her mother's untimely death, she moved in with her older sister. Then, shortly after moving into her new home, her older sister passed away. Following only a few months thereafter, her father also tragically passed away.

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Pheak Sokna doing finishing touches on silk scarf

"With the money that I make here, I am able to send my younger children to school, buy medicine for my sick children and provide food and clothing for my entire family." - Pheak Sokna

Pheak Sokna is a 39 year old woman working at SWDC. Pheak Sokna's story is one of fortitude and spirit. As a mother of five, Pheak Sokna's work is never done. Her husband works as a carpenter and construction worker from time to time but his income is insufficient for his family of seven to live on.

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Ma Loeu spinning red silk

"I can't believe that I have become independent. I now own a piece of land and a house!" - Ma Loeu

Ma Loeu is 46 years old and a mother of a 10-year-old daughter. Affected with polio since 5 years old, Ma Loeu relies on her wheel chair to move around her thatch hut in a small village by Sesan River in Sesan District, 20km from Stung Treng town.

In Khmer traditional culture, a woman needs to have children to support her when she's old.

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May Vin

Before coming to SWDC, 25 year old May Vin lived with her mother, father and 6 siblings. She studied in school up to Grade 7 and then had to stop her studies in order to help her family with their rice farming duties. May Vin assumed that rice farming was all there was for her until she heard about SWDC through some women as they passed through her village. Fascinated by what they had told her about this place where women can learn a skilled trade and work for a living wage, she asked her parents if she could try working at SWDC. Both of her parents agreed because the small income generated through rice farming was barely enough to feed and clothe their family of 8. In 2005, May Vin officially came to SWDC to begin her training.

In early 2008, May Vin met a young man and they began secretly seeing each other. The young man promised her marriage (once he accumulated enough money) but upon the announcement of her unexpected pregnancy, the young man fled and told May Vin that he was never planning on returning. May Vin's family disowned her; to be an unwed, pregnant woman in Cambodia is very much looked down upon. Because of her family's refusal to acknowledge her, May Vin had no other option but to move into one of the dorm rooms provided by the center. SWDC then quickly transformed into a safe-haven and home as well as her work place. The founders of SWDC and the women who work and live there have offered May Vin a lot of support. It is through these people that she has gained the strength to continue working and to keep her head held high, despite the obstacles that she faces.

May Vin does not have her family around to help her but she does have a community of women at SWDC who will support her in raising her child. Her position as weaver at SWDC will provide an appropriate and fair income for a single mother. May Vin says she would like to continue working at SWDC for many years to come. If she were to leave SWDC, she fears that she wouldn't be able to find a decent job to support herself and her baby. At the Stung Treng Women's Development Center, she has a job which allows her to work during her pregnancy and make more money than the average Cambodian teacher. The center has provided a source of livelihood and a place where she is protected and supported. May Vin's experience has been very difficult but her bravery is a testament to the strength and resilience of Cambodian women. With the love and support she has surrounding her, May Vin is sure to bear-up and contend with every challenge that she encounters.

Nuon Srey Nim

Nuon Srey Nim is a 24 year old woman working at SWDC. Before coming to SWDC back in 2002, her life was quite difficult. She lived with her family, but upon her mother's untimely death, she moved in with her older sister. Then, shortly after moving into her new home, her older sister passed away. Following only a few months thereafter, her father also tragically passed away. Because her parents and sister had passed away, Nuon Srey Nim was left with no source of income. Orphaned at a young age, Nuon Srey Nim had no where to turn and had inherited the responsibility of tending to eight younger siblings. As a result of the dramatic change in her familial circumstances, Nuon Srey Nim could not continue with her high school studies.

Nonetheless, she was still intent on continuing with her education, so she began attending a literacy class organized by SWDC. It was at this literacy class that she learned of the work opportunities at Stung Treng Women's Development Center. Since Nuon Srey Nim began working at SWDC back in 2002, she has made a significant amount of money and has become the main breadwinner in her family. To help assist this assiduous young woman, SWDC allocated money for the reconstruction of her family's dilapidated house. Despite having many unanticipated responsibilities thrust upon her at a very young age, Nuon Srey Nim has not only been able to meet life's challenges head on, but she has also been able to enrich and sustain her family's well-being in the process.

Pheak Sokna

Pheak Sokna is a 39 year old woman working at SWDC. Pheak Sokna's story is one of fortitude and spirit. As a mother of five, Pheak Sokna's work is never done. Her husband works as a carpenter and construction worker from time to time but his income is insufficient for his family of seven to live on. These circumstances forced Pheak Sokna to leave her home and find work. Pheak Sokna held down four separate jobs in order to make enough money. For one job, she worked as an egg and vegetable vendor at her local market; she would buy produce directly from the farmers and sell them at the market to make a small profit. Pheak Sokna worked as a laundress for a wealthy Cambodian family for her second job. In her third job, she was a dishwasher for another Cambodian family. In her fourth and final job, Pheak Sokna grew vegetables on her land for a fellow neighbor who did not have fertile land. Pheak Sokna would work these four jobs everyday and then come back home to do various chores (cleaning, washing, cooking).

Making her situation even more complicated was the fact that the nature of her husband's job kept him away from home for long periods of time. Thus, Pheak Sokna not only had to manage four jobs and her own household chores, but she also had five children to take care of single-handedly. To complicate things further, two of Pheak Sokna's children are sick. One of her older daughters has rheumatoid arthritis and cannot walk, thus limiting her chances at possible job opportunities. Her youngest daughter has plasmodium vivax malaria.

It was back in 2002 that Pheak Sokna heard about the Stung Treng Women's Development Center. Thinking that this would be a good opportunity for her and her family, Pheak Sokna spoke to her husband about it. Her husband agreed that she should go to work at SWDC because they were in desperate need for another source of income.

Her six years at Stung Treng Women's Development Center has helped alleviate a lot of the stress that Pheak Sokna felt before coming to the center. She currently makes enough money working at SWDC that she no longer has to take multiple odd jobs. With the money that she earns as a silk dyer and finisher she is able to send her younger children to school, buy medicine for her sick children, and provide food and clothing for her entire family. She hopes to continue working at SWDC until old age prevents her from biking to the center. She says that, by and large, the work that she performs is easy on her and she enjoys the work that she does.

Ma Loeu

Ma Loeu is 46 years old and a mother of a 10-year-old daughter. Affected with polio since 5 years old, Ma Loeu relies on her wheel chair to move around her thatch hut in a small village by Sesan River in Sesan District, 20km from Stung Treng town.

In Khmer traditional culture, a woman needs to have children to support her when she's old. Ma Loeu shared this belief and in 1999 without knowing the complications of child birth of someone with polio, she got pregnant. It was this time that mobile health care team MSF (Medecins sans Frontieres) met her at one of their missions, she was seven months pregnant. The team took care of her and successfully delivered her baby through caesarian section.

She lived with her husband, her daughter and her niece whose mother died after delivery. Her husband earned an irregular income from variety works which he could find from time to time and Ma Loeu would go down to the river on her arms and hands to catch some fish for their food. With no land to call their own, their hut was built on someone else's land and continuously moved whenever a landlord decides to use the land for other purpose.

In 2005, she moved to a new place near SWDC. Very soon after that, she was encouraged by the staff to work as silk spinner at the centre. On the first day of her first job, Ma Loeu wore make up and a bright yellow shirt and a big smile to start her new life. By 2006, she and her family moved into a brick house which is built on the piece of land offered by a generous donor through SWDC. They now grow vegetables and plant different types of trees in their garden.

With her income from working at the centre, Ma Loeu is able to send her daughter to school. She can even support her husband when he could not find any job and makes some saving for her future as well. Most of all, her work and acceptance in the center gives her a sense of pride that she never felt before - proud to be a productive member of the community despite of her physical condition.

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