New Community Garden & Family Enterprise

This past weekend, the Free To Shine team all joined together on Saturday and travelled over an hour from Siem Reap to a family that needed some extra help.Unfortunately, just a couple months ago, Vichika* lost her Grandfather, one of her main guardians, to heart disease. Vichika now lives with just her Grandmother and younger brother. Her parents divorced and both remarried, leaving Vichika and her younger brother alone with their grandparents and no further explanation.Vichika's Grandmother works in Cassava fields to raise money to support the family. She is a caring grandmother and works very hard to support her loved ones. Since Vichika's grandmother is the only person earning money in their home, Vichika feels pressure to leave school at 9th grade and earn money for her family.Vichika stopped school for 1 week to work. Her grandmother was upset when she learned that Vichika had stopped school. Free To Shine worked with the grandmother to have a united front and encourage Vichika to return to school and prioritise the next 3 years until she finishes grade 12. Fortunately this worked very well and Vichika returned to school.Vichika and her family live in an isolated village and have had financial trouble for a very long time. Every girl in our program is provided seeds to being their own vegetable garden. In a recent home visit with Vichika, her Education Officer noted how well her garden was doing and that all family members were contributing and working hard.Their garden started very small but quickly caught their neighbour's attention as the herbs, eggplant, winter melon, chilli and lemongrass and began to grow. Once their neighbours began witnessing their garden's success, they began asking for small vegetables to feed their families. Although Vichika and her grandmother often don't have enough money for themselves, they were happy to give their vegetables to their neighbours in need.Free To Shine sat down with Vichika's grandmother and suggested that instead of giving her vegetables away, she could sell them to her neighbours and at the market. Vichika's grandmother said she would prefer to give the vegetables to her neighbours for free, regardless of her financial situation.Free To Shine was touched by her generosity and brainstormed how we could help this family as they continue to help their community. Our final plan was to create a very large, community sized garden where Vichika and her grandmother could grow enough vegetables for their family, their neighbours and even have enough to begin selling them the market. Vichika and her family were all excited by this idea and committed to seeing it through.Free To Shine worked tirelessly to clear grass and revitalise the soil for the new garden. The team then created two large garden beds filled with morning glory and winter melon, and a large trellis to grow zucchini.

In addition to Free To Shine's team members, three university students from the program also joined. Free To Shine's supports these students in their studies at University and they happily volunteer their time to give back to their communities, when their studies allow.

Free To Shine also bought tools for the family and tools for our program. With these tools, we can continue to create large, community gardens that can feed neighbours and create small businesses for families who have a proven track record in agriculture.We will continue to assist Vichika's family in planning their garden to ensure they have everything needed to transform their single family garden into a small family enterprise!We are very proud of our entire team for working so hard for this family and we're extremely excited to watch their garden and new family business grow!

*Name has been changed to protect her identity.