Today I got a distraught phone call from my house helper. Normally when she rings it is because she can’t find the house key I have hidden or we have not given her the money to buy things from the market. Today though she had gone to the market to find the place she normally leaves the bike she uses (belongs to the owners of the house) was having a new roof put on so there was no secure place to leave it. She was walking round with this bike in the market and turned to pay a shop keeper and when she turned round it was gone!
Poor thing she was so upset! Normally this kind of thing could result in someone being fired or having to replace the bike from her wages, which she can not afford to do. Sometimes people will do this kind of thing as a scam but she is such a consistently conscientious worker that I am sure she wouldn’t do anything like that. She is always very careful with everything and was absolutely mortified.
She waited until I came home and as I came in the gate she had tears in her eyes. I just felt for her as she had obviously stressed about it all day. I had got my classroom assistant to ring her to tell her not to worry and that it was not her fault but I know she will know feel indebted to us as a family.
This is a very real reality for many people in Cambodia. They often live just above the bread line and the margin of making it financially every month is so fine. If they have not got the money the only solution is to borrow, often from loan sharks who charge hefty interest.
So something for us that is an inconvenience, like losing a bike, could cost them more than just the bike, it could prevent them from getting to work to earn the wage they desperately need.
This is the daily reality of someone like my house helper. We need lots of wisdom to know how to help without just giving handouts.
My dilemma is…she will feel indebted to me and will feel the need to pay me back…how can I help her “repay that debt” without it costing her money? Tricky one…answers on a postcard 🙂