I had the pleasure to volunteer for the Village Microfinance Fund project for about 3 weeks. I worked closely with another volunteer and both were encouraged to discuss any changes that we thought were needed. We also got to interview villagers with the scholars.
Early on, we realized that it was extremely important to provide a basic business & finance training for the scholars. As loan officers, the scholars are essentially business consultants, but don’t necessarily have business training or experience. We created and trained the students on two modules. Major topics covered included:
- Determining feasibility of business ideas
- Refining business concept
- Market and develop of products and services
- Managing cash flows
- Writing and developing business plans
- Understanding your customer base and evaluating competition
- Forecasting economic and seasonal trends
- Risk Management
I was very nervous at first about training the scholars because I’ve never trained or tutored anyone in business/finance topics. But I realized that the little I did know was tremendous help. Scholars were very happy and grateful that we could help them learn something so valuable. It helped tremendously that the villagers’ businesses were small and not too complicated (selling food in the market, recycling, sewing).
The real challenge came with creating an additional seminar for the villagers which – taught in a simple manner- would include most of the things students were trained on. Since they would be the ones to train the villagers (in Khmer), we needed to make sure that they had a good understanding of every topic.
I realized then that passing on knowledge to the local staff could potentially yield a greater impact because they will still be there to assist and train the villagers when I left. This was the first time that I was training/teaching practical skills in a non-hypothetical situation. I learned so such about myself on a professional level as well as personal. I can’t wait to return and see how the scholars are doing and see any new developments in the villages. A piece of my heart will forever stay in Cambodia!