In May 2006 “Mith Samlanh”, an NGO that works to meet the essential needs of street children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was facing eviction.
Their landlord had announced that they were selling the property underneath Mith Samlanh’s drop-in center, which provided services such as hygiene, health care, vocational training, primary education, counseling, food, emotional support, and cultural activities to more than 2,200 street children and youth every day. To avoid abandoning their location in the heart of Phnom Penh in close proximity to the street children who need their services the most, Mith Samlanh took out a US$2.1 million loan from the ANZ Royal Bank in Cambodia to purchase their drop-in center and the land it was on. By 2009, Mith Samlanh had paid down the principal of the loan by almost half, but the economic downturn in 2008 coupled with an unexpected rise in their loan’s interest rate severely impacted Mith Samlanh’s operations.
In 2009, Give2Asia and the Sanctuary Fund stepped in to help Mith Samlanh remove the burden of the high-interest loan to ANZ Royal Bank. Sanctuary Fund started by offering a 2:1 grant matching program where every $1 that Mith Samlanh raised to pay down the principal would be matched by $2 from Sanctuary Fund (up to $600,000). By December 10, 2009 Mith Samlanh had raised US$300,000.00, and the Sanctuary Fund delivered a $600,000 grant to pay down the principal on the ANZ Royal Bank loan. In order to encourage Mith Samlanh to take ownership of their decision to take on the original loan and continue their mission of financial sustainability, Sanctuary Fund offered a low-interest loan to Mith Samlanh in the amount of US$325,000 to completely pay off the remaining principal on the ANZ Royal Bank loan and cover the miscellaneous closing costs. The 2% interest rate on the Sanctuary Fund’s Program Related Investment (PRI) loan was a full 8 percentage points lower than the 10% rate that the ANZ Royal Bank loan had reached.
With its location secured in the heart of Phnom Penh and within easy reach of the city’s street children and youth, Mith Samlanh was able to focus on providing services to the underserved youth of Phnom Penh. In 2013 alone (the year that the low-interest loan to the Sanctuary Fund was paid off), Mith Samlanh helped 596 children and youth move away from street life, integrated 534 children into public school and supported 1,806 others to remain in public school.