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Weaving Relationships with the German Chancellor

Tuesday, 14 Dec 2010

By Kevin Jenkins, President & CEO, World Vision International

I was pleased to be able to present the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, with the gift of a silk scarf that came with a heart-warming story from a World Vision project in Cambodia.

The occasion was a reception held for us by Mrs Merkel during our annual European Forum at the end of November.

The European leaders and Board chairs were invited to meet Mrs Merkel. We were immediately able to talk about World Vision’s development and microfinance work thanks to the scarf, made for us by a Cambodian lady, Ouch Sophanna.

Mrs Sophana, 30, pictured below, is part of a collective of women who have been given loans through the VisionFund microfinance subsidiary, VisionFund Cambodia. The descendant of a long line of silk weavers, she, her cattle-breeding husband Sem, two sons and a dependant mother, were all living hand to mouth.

She received her first US$100 loan three years ago, repaid it, and received another for $1,000. She repaid that, and received a third, for $3,800, enabling her to buy land for rice growing.

Now Mrs Sophana’s decrepit house has been repaired, the family have some assets and a regular income, and perhaps best of all, they have been able to employ 15 more people.

“I plan for my two boys to complete university education,” she told World Vision staff when we bought the silk from her to give to Mrs Merkel.

“My wish is for my eldest son to become a medical doctor and the younger one to be an NGO or company employee.”

As her two sons are only aged ten and three, it might seem rather early to be planning their careers. The eldest is in the sponsorship programme, however, and that – coupled with the security of a thriving business - has encouraged the family to make big plans.

“With the continued support of World Vision and VisionFund, I hope to fulfil my dream for my family one day,” said Mrs Sophana.

Christoph Waffenschmidt, World Vision Germany’s Chief Executive Officer, asked Mrs Merkel to help the world maintain momentum in reducing the toll of preventable deaths among children under five, and explained World Vision’s work through its Child Health Now campaign.

The Chancellor said her concern for the health of children and mothers is heart-felt.

“Without healthy children and mothers, no country has a future,” she said, promising to look for opportunities to champion the weakest of the world’s community.