The products we sell are handmade by the talented graduates from Human and Hope Association’s sewing program in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia. These women have overcome adversity to gain new skills and break the cycle of poverty, taking their families with them. When you Shop on Purpose, you are supporting these women to earn a livelihood. Your purchases not only impact these women and their families, but the greater community as well.
When Sangorb was young, she dreamed of a future where she had a big house and a large family living with her. Her dream was pushed into the back of her mind when at the age eight, she was forced to stop studying at public school to take care of her family’s cows. Sangorb went on to work one job after another, but as she was illiterate, none of them paid well or brought her closer to achieving her dream.
She eventually got married and lived in a bamboo shack with her husband. They struggled to survive from day to day, and with rain dripping through their palm leaf roof, she developed a painful skin condition.
One day, whilst conducting community outreach, our Director came across Sangorb. He helped Sangorb in receiving treatment for her skin condition and invited her to study at Human and Hope Association’s sewing program.
Although it was difficult for her at first, Sangorb developed a love for sewing. She came top of her class and was hired by Human and Hope Association to make handicrafts at her home. She has also developed her own sewing business where she can sew and mend clothes for her neighbours.
Sangorb graduated from our sewing program in October 2016 and has built a safe and beautiful house with the income she makes from sewing. Her family has officially moved out of the poverty bracket.
Heang is one of eight children who didn’t quite make it to the end of high school; she had to drop out in grade eleven as her parents could no longer support her with the cost of study supplies and extra classes.
Heang began working as a housekeeper to make ends meet, until she was approached by a non-government organisation to study sewing. Heang had been interested in sewing since she was young, so she jumped at this opportunity. Unfortunately, the program she studied was short and offered no follow-up or ongoing support. Heang could only sew the basics, so she was unable to fulfil her dream of setting up her own business at her home in rural Siem Reap.
With her limited sewing skills, Heang began making simple bags at a shop for a small wage but was dissatisfied as she was determined to set up her own business. Heang’s life then faced another hurdle; her parents arranged for her to marry a man in her village that she didn’t know or have feelings for. Heang already had feelings for another man in her village, so she did something that isn’t common in Cambodian culture; she refused the arranged marriage. Her parents weren’t accepting of Heang’s decision, so Heang had to make a difficult choice, parting ways with her family so she could marry the man she loved. Heang demonstrated bravery that is rarely seen in Cambodian society, as many women are culturally obliged to do as their family says.
After living with her new husband for a year, Heang had a baby and gave up her job, relying solely on her husband’s housekeeping job to see them through. They were pushed further into poverty, which was only amplified when Heang fell pregnant again. Facing an uncertain future, Heang and her husband were caring for two children with one salary.
Fortunately, one day when conducting outreach, the staff at Human and Hope Association came across Heang at her small house and asked if she would like to study sewing. Heang was elated; this was the opportunity she needed to progress past basic sewing skills and have the ability and confidence to set up her own business. In the back of her mind though, Heang had hesitations. She was concerned that Human and Hope Association wouldn’t live up to their promise of providing a full set of sewing skills, as she had been left disappointed by the other NGO she studied with. Human and Hope Association’s sewing graduate, Sampheas, travelled to Heang’s house to share her experience studying in the year-long program and the fact that she had set up a successful sewing business herself. Heang’s hesitations were wiped away, and she signed up immediately to study in the program.
Each day, Heang would travel on a one-hour return journey on a bumpy dirt road to study at Human and Hope Association. Her determination to set up her own business kept her going through the fatigue, and after just three months of studying in the program, she was hired as a seamstress to make the handicrafts that we sell in Australia.
After graduating from the program, Heang had the confidence and skills to finally fulfil her dream of setting up a sewing shop at her home. A few months afterwards, with money saved from her business and the support of her husband, Heang added a laundry washing business to her sewing shop.
Through attending this sewing program that we support in Cambodia, Heang is living her dream. She is proud of her determination to keep going and is especially proud that she was able to prove to her family that choosing to be with the man she loved paid off, as he has supported her to achieve her goals. Heang is living a happy life, free of poverty, with her family.
Sreythom was born into a family of seven children. When she was in grade seven, Sreythom dropped out of school so she could take up a job as a cleaner, helping to support her family.
Sreythom got married in her early twenties, but was frequently unwell after giving birth to her children. She stayed at home and worked as a housewife, struggling to manage her health issues at the same time.
In 2017, the staff at Human and Hope Association found Sreythom when they were conducting outreach in her village, around 18km from Siem Reap town. As it turned out, Sreythom had always dreamed of studying sewing, but due to her financial constraints, had never been able to.
Sreythom’s talent shone through during the 12-month program, and she was hired as a seamstress by Human and Hope Association once she graduated in 2017. Sreythom notes that she has become patient through learning the new skill, and is more confident to try new things. She says her husband is proud of the brave woman she has become.
Sreythom’s family has officially moved out of poverty thanks to the income she earns through sewing. In 2021 they will be building a new home.
Sampheas stopped studying in grade nine to look after her younger siblings. At age 18, she began working in a golf club as a caddy. She married at 20, but after having two children, had to face reality as a single mother after her husband left the family. Sampheas went on to work as a housekeeper and construction worker, both jobs being physically exhausting, and neither paying well enough to support her children.
Sampheas’ aunty had heard about the sewing program at Human and Hope Association, and thinking this would be a great way for Sampheas to learn a new skill, told her that she should join. Sampheas was hesitant at first, as she was concerned that taking time out to study part-time would mean she couldn’t support her children. Her parents promised to support her, so with their encouragement, Sampheas joined the program with the goal of eventually opening her own sewing shop so she could look after her children whilst earning an income.
Sampheas thrived in class, and was hired to work as a seamstress to make our products. She earns triple what she was previously earning, and has also set up a small sewing shop at her home. Sampheas also studies in the education program at Human and Hope Association, learning English.
Chomrong is a remarkably intelligent woman. Due to poverty, she was forced to stop studying in grade eight. Chomrong went on to work as a builder, earning just USD$0.88 a day. Chomrong married and had three children, but lived from day to day, not knowing whether they would have enough food to survive. Their children often fell ill, pushing them further into poverty.
When Chomrong began studying in the sewing program at Human and Hope Association, her motivation to learn shone through. She was in her element! Chomrong set up a small business at her home, and was hired as a seamstress to make our products. Her three children began studying in Human and Hope Association’s preschool, Khmer, art, English and library programs.
In 2015, Chomrong became a part-time sewing teacher at Human and Hope Association, so she could empower other women like she was empowered. Chomrong continues to make our products, and plays a crucial role in product development. Chomrong and her family build a new home to replace their unstable wooden structure, and her family has officially moved out of poverty.