In the past, Lai has said that he would “walk or even crawl to work” if it meant his children could stay in school and continue their education.His job with Healthy Life Reinforcement has enabled him to take care of his family and keep his children in school. However, school fees increase each year as the children get older and Lai is beginning to wonder how he can continue making ends meet.
Lai has worked with Healthy Life Reinforcement since the shop opened in 2012. Healthy Life manager Salee Oum values Lai for his work ethic and communication skills. “Lai is the best on the team about meeting families and speaking with them,” explains Salee, “I even feel that he is better than me with this skill. The families really enjoying meeting with Lai and they learn a lot from him.”
Currently, Lai spends about 1/3 of his income on rent, 1/3 on education, and the rest on food and other life expenses. The budget is very tight. Lai and his wife are starting to feel pressure to free up more of their income before their children get further in school. One idea they have is leaving to work in Thailand for some of the year. Many Cambodians move to Thailand for higher paying jobs. They will stay for months or even years at a time and send money back to their families.
Salee and Lai have discussed this idea in great detail. Salee has urged Lai that living in Thailand and traveling back and forth is expensive, so he may not free up as much income as he hopes. Additionally, he will lose the opportunity to spend time with his children, which is very important to him. For now, Lai is staying in Battambang. He is collaborating with Salee to think of other ideas to either improve his income or reduce his expenses.
The two ideas Lai is most interested in are getting a loan to build his own home, or starting a small business to run in addition to his work with Healthy Life Reinforcement. Owning his own home would reduce Lai’s rent, and a business would increase income.