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Illiteracy among Heifer’s project participants in Cambodia is especially high for women. More than 90 percent of self-help (SHG) group members are illiterate and are barely able to make simple calculations for transactions in their small businesses. And there is minimal assistance available within the communities to address this issue.

But Heifer recognizes the importance of holistic development in communities—beginning with the personal transformation of those we work with. That's why some Heifer projects recruit women as literacy facilitators to provide literacy classes to SHG group members, like the Improving Income and Nutrition of Community through Community Empowerment (INCOME) project.

One example of transformation is 19-year-old Soeung Socheat. She was one of the "recruits" but it wasn't certain that she'd be accepted.

Soeung Socheat, a literacy teacher working with women in Heifer Cambodia self-help groups

Yun Sartih, director of Chetthor, said 'Most members of the selection committee were not convinced that she should be selected as the community facilitator and they wanted to leave the group because they did not believe in her capacity, attitude and age. Finally, we selected her based on her interest in and potential for addressing village issues and for her dynamic communication style. Our project coordinator started to provide training on Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development to SHG members and Socheat was co-facilitator. From that time, everyone started to recognize her potential skills and capacity. Socheat manages her class very well by preparing a training schedule and lesson plan. Everyone in the village loves and regards her as their teacher."

Since completing various training sessions organized by Heifer Cambodia, Socheat has grown more and more confident in her ability to train others. Before she started her work as a facilitator, Socheat visited with her neighbors in order to learn more about their reading and writing skills, and she encouraged them to attend her values-based literacy class. She is getting rave reviews from fellow community members: "Soeung Socheat is a good facilitator in values-based literacy classes. She asked me to help her encourage the villagers to attend her class. She convinced them of the importance of literacy in their daily lives, especially for their business calculations, transactions, and for learning new skills for their income generating activities. Because of her, more participants have joined her class."

Help empower a women's self-help group today.

"I always asked myself what I could do better as a facilitator to help the villagers to read and write,” Socheat says. “Through the opportunities, hard work, and trainings I attended with Heifer, I found that internalizing Heifer’s Cornerstones helps me do a better job. I sought support from the experienced people at Chetthor and Heifer for things beyond my knowledge and ability, and I received their kind support. I try to do and teach the same with my class participants–practice internalizing Heifer’s Cornerstones–and they will gradually see their lives improve."

"Because of Heifer’s Cornerstones, now my participants like to study with me and I am proud to be called ‘teacher’ by the villagers. My parents are proud of me, too. This month, I was promoted from group facilitator to community facilitator. I would like to thank Heifer and Chetthor for their support to my village and me. I am committed to work harder in my new role and with my new responsibilities as a community facilitator for the best of my community."

Story by Huong Nita, Training Manager, Heifer Cambodia
Photos by Touch Sao Maro, Volunteer for Training Unit, Heifer Cambodia


Erin Snow

Erin Snow joined Heifer International in 2007 after earning a degree in Mass Communication from UALR. She lives in Little Rock with her husband and daughter. Passionate about cultivating positive and healthy relationships with her family, friends and the planet, Erin enjoys yoga, meditation, music, creative writing and travel.