HIV is a very common problem in Cambodia, where the disease does not only appear in “marginalized” groups, but is distributed across the entire population. This is due to the sometimes frighteningly bad standards for hygiene and health. Thus, only last year, in a village, more than 100 people were infected with the virus by a contaminated injection given by a doctor.
The consequences for the families are extreme. HIV infected people mostly lose their jobs immediately due to the lack of education in the country. Likewise, they are also isolated in society and lose the social “networks” that are so important in Cambodia. Very close to the capital of Phnom Penh, the government has created a whole district (slums) where HIV infected are then simply deported to.
There is a daily struggle for survival. The drugs are even the smaller problem. Here in Cambodia there is now a good basic care and HIV infected can also have a very long life here. The major problem are the consequences of loss of income, and social isolation. Those affected live under extreme poverty, have nothing to eat or to drink clean water and no perspective for a dignified future.
Our work in the project
Particularly we support vulnerable families with HIV / AIDS in Cambodia. They will have the opportunity to start their own business (self-employment) with a one-time donation. This donation from us is a maximum of $ 250 and has to be repaid within one year, not to us, but to the self-help group involved. This sum is then deposited in the bank’s own bank book. If someone leaves the project, the amount has to be repaid immediately to the group. New loans can be re-applied for and received directly from the group’s money under the same conditions after having repaid the money completely to the group. If someone dies, the family can keep the money and spend it for the funeral.
From the group, which consists of about twenty families each, a team leader, a vice-team leader and a treasurer are elected. Once a month there is a meeting. During this meeting, all progress and problems are shared with each other in their respective companies. The organization PWHO (Positive Women of Hope) supervises, trains, visits and provides training for these villages and groups. They also supervise and control the payments.
These trainings consist of company coaching, training in the areas of agriculture / hygiene / health / family planning / group dynamics / education / instructions / hospital visits etc. Together with the PWHO, we regularly visit all participants in these self-help groups and their monthly meetings.
Current help and problems
We are currently facing the following problems and are looking for solutions together
- Self-help groups learn how to self-manage completely – very low level of education among the participants (training started)
- Separation of unmotivated members from the groups (as part of self-administration)
- Special events (for example avian flu) sometimes ask for an “emergency program” (definition of the criteria)
- Stronger promotion of motivated participants (donations required)
- Visiting all families, training and examination of the individual support situation (donations required)
In 2013 the PWHO team consisted of seven women. However, after some of the foreign donors withdrew, this number had to be reduced to three employees. André van Achterberg is a very active participant and “patron” of this target group. Every year he comes to Cambodia for at least one month.
In 2015 we started a pilot. In this pilot team, the leaders of these groups are trained by the PWHO so that they will be able to take part in the above activities so these groups will take more responsibility. This is a very diligent and lengthy project since these people often have little education and experience. Poverty and exclusion make it difficult for them to get any training.
At the moment we have 8 self-help groups, each with about 20 families. In each group there are very positive examples of re-socialization and a regular income. Thus, for example, for a family that was bullied by their neighbors because of their illness, a simple wooden house was built with the help of the village community and the mayor. Other families now have a regular income through rice cultivation with the help of this one time start-up capital. Another family has a banana plantation and mangoes. But, of course, there are always setbacks. In the past 3 years, 3 families lost their livelihood because their chickens died of the bird flu. Here we are working with the families on a new business model.
People in need, need your help.
Transfer of responsibility by the Positive Women of Hope Organization to the representatives of the Self-Help Groups and farewell to André.
On February 24, 2019, PWHO organized a meeting with representatives of the ‘Self-Help Groups’ on the occasion of the conclusion of the Phase-out project, which resulted in the independence of all 8 Self-Help Groups.
From now on, they call themselves ‘Saving group.’
On this occasion, André, who has devoted himself especially to the ‘Self-Help Groups’ project in recent years, said goodbye.
As a parting gift, he gave all group members a medicine box to organize the medication per week. A cartoon strip accompanied the medicine boxes. (See image right)
The strips indicate the importance of:
1. to take medicines daily
2. Regular medical check-ups
3. Talk to each other about problems and ask for help if necessary.
During the demonstration of the cartoon strip, it appeared to have the desired effect; the response was enthusiastic, and the PWHO employee said that this is a welcome addition to her in providing information about HIV.
360 Photo of a meeting
Watch a typical meeting with a family on this 360 degree photo. Here you can also see the circumstances in which these families often live.