For eleven years, Trey Mork, 42, kept his money tucked under the seat of his cyclo.
Most days he managed to bring home a couple of thousand riel to his wife and three
children. But every year that he has peddled through the streets of Phnom Penh has
been harder than the last.
Even as motodups have enticed more of his customers away, one thing has made his
life a bit easier - the Cyclo Center. When he joined last year, the Center gave Mork
a savings account in which he has now stashed 200,000 riel. He also gets medical
care, vocational training, haircuts and English language lessons.
But the Center itself, a ramshackle building on Street 178 in the center of Phnom
Penh, is chronically strapped for cash. Aside from sporadic assistance from the Urban
Resource Center, it has had to resort to collecting donations from some of its cyclo
drivers to pay its utilities.
"The Cyclo Center has no money for rent," said director Nouv Sarany. Repeated
requests to embassies and donors, she said, had met with no assistance.
Sarany also submitted grant applications to several organizations, but none was approved.
The Center's few remaining partners are worried. One partner is the World Health
Organization (WHO), which along with the National Center for Health Promotion (NCHP)
lends support through a $3,000 anti-smoking campaign.
"It's a big concern for donor funding," said WHO's Greg Hallen. "I'd
really like to see them get that kind of funding, and they do have a genuine intention
to make their funding sustainable."
But this funding will soon dry up, forcing the Center to look elsewhere. It is experimenting
with a number of ways to keep its doors open until something else comes up.
Some cyclo drivers are selling T-shirts. Travel agencies that book group tours with
the Center are asked to make donations. But none of this has secured its future.
The members say they will be at a loss should it close.
"I don't know if I can do anything," said Mork. "I'm just a cyclo