Bread, Mango Juice, and Community Empowerment

The Tompeang Russey Khmer Association (TRK) is an NGO based in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia which aims to help people in the local community. We spoke to the executive director, Loeurm Sowath in their office in Banan this morning to learn about the organisation and see whether we (VSO Cambodia) and TRK could combine forces in the future.

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TRK was founded in 2008 with just two projects (providing English lessons and building a community library), no government funding and a small group of volunteer staff including some University students. They established a branch in Battambang Province in 2010, as well as a partnership with a Korean organisation, who provides volunteers and some targeted funding. They now work in several different areas on eight types of projects, which include providing University scholarships for people who can’t afford the fees, providing electricity in order to hasten community development, and establishing credit unions for local middle- and low-income families.

One of their new projects is creating a social enterprise for women. Their aim is to recruit vulnerable women – women who might have low income, who have suffered from domestic violence or who have been victim to human trafficking – and provide them with training in order for them to earn a better living. They will learn about hygiene, basic business management, baking, and coffee making in order to be able to run a café. The training will give these women valuable skills, which will lead to them generating their own income, which with lead to independence, which in turn will lead to personal empowerment.

TRK are targeting people in the rural areas of Cambodia, including Banan, because they have less opportunities and, often, wealth than the people living in towns and cities. They are also extending their social enterprise project to include making a community vegetable and herb garden, and are planning to expand their office into a café and kitchen at the front which will use the products grown in the garden. This is so that, once trained, the women will have somewhere to work straight away. Sowath also suggested selling local products in the café, such as soya milk and mango juice made by a local farmer – which, take it from me, is delicious – in order to further include members of the community and provide more people with a sustainable income.

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The training centre currently being built behind TPK’s office in Banan District

 

The Tompeang Russey Khmer Association is a fairly young but strong organisation that is powered by commitment to the welfare of their society, as well as a realistic attitude towards sustaining their organisation as well as their projects. It was a pleasure to meet the staff and make plans to help with their education programme. They certainly give reasons to be optimistic about national and global development, since there are so many amazing outcomes of TPK’s eight short years as an NGO: an organisation with such humble beginnings and big plans ahead.

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