THE HIDDEN STORY
Growing up in Switzerland, I know I’ve been lucky to have a roof over my head, food in my plate every day, the choice to go to school or not and, last but not least, to discover the world by traveling.
A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to work for several months in Cambodia. This experience changed my life completely.
I discovered a country where poverty ruled, a place where many people did not have a roof over their head, or enough food in their plates, and where far too many children never had set foot in a school.
I started looking for a way to help as best as I could and, perhaps to bring some change and improve some of the living conditions starting on a small scale.
The extraordinary life circumstances allowed me to meet Ratana and his wife Vatei, two young and brilliant Cambodians with a huge heart, a beautiful spirituality and both spreading the love and kindness around them. Ratana knows very well the countryside and especially his province of origin, Kampong Speu, located near the capital and considered as one of the poorest provinces of Cambodia.
In 2012, we decided to create Make A Little Difference: a small association to help families living in remote rural areas where many people still live in extreme poverty. From the beginning, it was essential for us to understand the reality in which families live, by visiting them, talking with them, to understand what the best way to help would be.
The most urgent needs for these families are the most rudimentary: food, shelter and care. So we repeatedly brought rice, sauces, laundry detergent, soap, clothes for children to relieve families for a few months.
But these noble actions have had no long-term impact. The saying goes: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him once. Teach a man how to fish, and he will feed all his life”.
One day I heard a girl whispering to my friend “If only my mother had a better salary, I would not have to work,” after that I completely reviewed my definition of the word “help”.
I understood that people did not need help by receiving goods only, but they needed a way to earn money to sustain themselves in a dignified way. By doing research on the subject, I discovered many Social Businesses and NGOs that instead of “helping” and simply “giving”, allowed people to have something much more important: independence, dignity, freedom: they gave the poorest people the opportunity to work in a healthy environment, to be respected and to earn a fair wage that allowed them to improve their living conditions by themselves.
And that’s how AOKAS was born. “ONE SMALL PURCHASE CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE” is our creed. We are deeply convinced that by offering authentic, handmade and unique products, whose origins and manufacturing conditions are known is a solution that will help fight poverty on the long term.