Last month I attended the Ethical Enterprise Awards in Melbourne, as Human and Hope Association Inc were finalists. A transcript of my speech is below.

 

“I now don’t fear for my life.”

 

These words are from our sewing graduate, Seila. Our work has changed her life and her story continues to inspire me.

 

Seila is illiterate; she was forced to stop studying in grade two when her parents told her that taking care of their cows was more important than education.

Seila had an arranged marriage and lived in a tiny shack with a dirt floor. Soon after, she had a daughter, but she feared from her husband on a daily basis.

 

When Seila began studying with us, she gave it everything she had. And you know what? She nailed it. Seila now runs her own microenterprise. And this year, Seila and her husband built their own safe and stable house. They have officially moved out of poverty and are living a peaceful life, free from violence.

 

When we’ve got their backs, they take themselves out of poverty.

 

That’s what Human and Hope Association does. Provides a platform for local Cambodians to teach other locals enterprising skills so they can launch their own ventures. And this works.

 

Our sewing program is run only by local staff, where the teachers are former sewing students themselves. This is a full circle moment that is critical to upskilling a community and building a local economy.

 

We have a 92%retention rate, which has increased from 50% in 2013. Students at least triple their income since starting the program thanks to the business and life skills they learn.

 

Today, they thrive. The sewing micro-finance loans have a 100%repayment rate, which means that since 2013, every single student has repaid their loans because they are earning sufficient income.

 

With our help, Seila was able to save herself. She is a role model and a champion for Cambodia’s future. She now has the confidence and the means to transform the lives of future generations.  The success of Seila is a force multiplier.

 

What can this Ethical Enterprise Award do? It will expand our sewing program to the rural area of Riel Commune where the poverty rate is 35%.

 

We will nurture our innovative sewing cooperative and take the necessary steps to ensure that in the near future our local staff step back and have the cooperative run entirely by the students themselves.

 

We will continue to expand on our sustainable income source by growing our handicraft sales in Australia, generating $20,000 and doubling your investment next year.

 

You will be empowering the next generation of Seilas.

 

When we’ve got their backs, they take themselves out of poverty.