KHAT RIM: Blacksmith
51 year old Khat Rim and his family have now been in Veal Thom for 6 years. Before he came here he was barely scraping a living as a subsistent farmer but thanks to CDRA he now owns land and a house for the first time in his life! However, it wasn't easy at the beginning. When he first came here it was all jungle and although he was given the land he was responsible for both clearing it and building his house. This would not be an easy matter for anyone. There was no clean water or toilets and several people got malaria. However, persistence paid off and, once his land was cleared, he set about farming it with the help of his family.
Over time conditions improved. The village grew and developed and NGOs came in and provided further aid and services. However, one of the biggest changes for him was when WRF/PACE offered him the opportunity to develop a different set of work skills. He suggested that the village needed a blacksmith and they agreed. Three men, including Khat Rim, were sent off for training and WRF/PACE also provided them with the essential equipment and materials to get started.
Khat Rim is now the supervisor of the team, and when one of the original members left, he trained the replacement. He and his team produce a range of machetes and axes for both village residents and people outside the village. They also re-sharpen old blades by re-heating and beating out a new edge. He would like to be able to produce a stock of goods for selling, but admits at the moment that that would be difficult. Part of the reason for this is that the whole team needs to work together to turn out new goods and they are not always available at the same time. Another problem is that they need extra capital so that they can purchase additional materials needed to make certain tools.
He estimates that he earns 50000-6000 riels per day, which supplemented by income from farming, is more than sufficient for support of himself and his family. He is now able to live much better than he was before he came to Veal Thom.
And what of the future? Rim is starting to feel his age and doesn't feel that he'll have the strength for this work for much longer. He wants to build up a fully trained team of blacksmiths which he hopes will include his 26 year son, Nov Sok. When he is confident that they can manage without him, he'd like to move on and work fulltime as a carpenter. As he already has both carpentry and supervisory skills, he would hope to work as the carpenter supervisor. He's not sure how that will affect his income as carpentry work isn't so regular, but if he got the opportunity to work building houses outside Veal Thom, then he knows it's possible to earn as much as $100 in two weeks!