1. Callister, Lynn Clark PhD, RN, FAAN

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I recently received a thoughtful gift: an exquisite brilliant blue silk bag created from hand-dyed and locally woven silk in Cambodia marketed by the Tabitha Foundation. The Tabitha Foundation is an international, sustainable nonprofit organization with minimal overhead costs that focuses on self-help programs for the poorest of the poor. Its primary activities include personal and family economic development, community partnerships (including the drilling of wells for groups of five or six families), microeconomic cottage industries, and the building of homes. These initiatives mean that the poor can have food for their children, clean water to drink, shelter, and a source of income. When a community becomes self-sustainable with the help of the Tabitha Foundation, the foundation moves to another community where the identified needs are greater.

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Thirty-three thousand families have participated in the "Family Development Through Savings Program," and more than 30,000 families have "graduated" from the program after an average of 5 to 7 years. Families on this program are given small loans from the foundation that provide them with opportunities to generate income and save a few cents each week (the average Cambodian family income is $1/day). After 10 weeks, families are paid 10% interest by the Tabitha Foundation. The families use these funds to purchase essentials such as towels, blankets, cooking pots, or 3 months' supply of rice.


Results in Choum Pouk Eyke, Cambodia were dramatic. The average family income quadrupled in 3 years because of microeconomic projects. The percentage of homes having water storage went from 30% to 90%, and 87% of families had basic domestic necessities (15% previously) as a result of socioeconomic improvement stimulated by Tabitha Foundation initiatives. Homes are also built for families by international volunteers when families have enough money to buy a small piece of land and some of the required materials. The philosophy of self-help is designed to promote self-sufficiency and dignity.


The provision of access to clean water-"the gift of life"-through family wells makes a dramatic difference in their lives, because 90% of disadvantaged families in Southeast Asia don't have access to clean water. Families without wells have to transport water from a community pump, which is often 3 km or more from their homes. It is common for children aged 10 or 12 to have the responsibility of getting up at 4am, walking to the well, waiting at the pump, and returning at 10am with two pails of water. This meager amount of water must meet the needs of the whole family for cooking, "sponge" baths, washing dishes, and washing clothes. When five or six families have a shared well, their health improves dramatically, especially the health of the children. The well also helps for growing vegetables to increase family income and nutrition. Families plan together to plant different vegetables, which they share with each other and sell in the market to generate income. These families also use their wells to nurture two donated piglets that can be sold in a few months for more than 8 to 10 times the purchase price.


Another Tabitha initiative is microeconomic programs, which train and employ embroiderers, seamstresses, weavers, and silversmiths to create artwork that is marketed internationally. These programs provide regular incomes for widowed mothers, landmine victims, street women, AIDS patients, orphaned young women, drought victims, and persons who are poverty stricken. Currently this initiative provides income for 620 families. The beautiful blue bag I received was made by one of these artisans and sold through a Singapore store selling Tabitha products.


The name for the Tabitha Foundation originated from the New Testament scripture, Acts 9:36, which refers to a woman named Tabitha who was full of good works and acts of charity. The Tabitha Foundation is committed to improving the health and well-being of women, children, and families and promoting the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal #1, which focuses on poverty and malnutrition. The Tabitha Foundation is indeed "full of good works." For more information, see



Appreciation is expressed to Heather MacArthur Trane for her contributions to this column.