Metal chains. Frying pans. Corrugated iron.
Cambodian dad Ben Teu knows that when some people take a look inside his motorbike basket, they see dirty items with no value. But in reality, buying and selling those recyclable goods to local people has tripled the family income for this 40-year-old former farmer.
It means he can afford to provide his family with proper shelter and enough food. His daughters can also go to school with decent clothes and the books they need.
“My wife and I are really happy that we have worked our way out of hardship and can plan a better future for our children’s education,” says Ben.
Ben remembers when his family did not have enough for daily meals and lived under a broken roof which they’d move around when it rained to avoid getting wet.
When the girls were five and seven, they offered to drop out of school to help their parents earn a living. Ben had been unable to work because he was bitten by a poisonous snake. This happened at the same time that his pregnant wife needed an emergency operation and his daughter was diagnosed with dengue fever.
“We were struggling too much,” says Ben.
In 2005, Ben’s took out his first loan of US$25 and paid for a cow and some fertiliser. This helped him earn more money from his farm. He began to save $0.50 a day to pay off his loan and borrowed more to get the waste collection venture off the ground.
A sixth loan, this time for US$1,600, paid for a motorbike to transport items that he sold. Now, after paying for all of the family’s daily needs, Ben is saving US$3.75 a day.
“I never gave up because I didn’t want my children struggling like me in the future,” he says.
Ben’s vision is to build a bigger space for storing the things he collects and buys from people in his village.