Sreymom gratudated from university with a Bachelor of English Literature and Business Administration in Marketing in 2010, and is now almost finished her MBA in Enterprenurship Management. She has volunteered in organizations raising awareness about HIV, drugs, democracy, reproductive health, and the environment, and has worked as a Project Intern for a young women’s leadership program and as a Program Officer in the Education Unit of the National Federation of UNESCO Asssociations Japan. Sreymom’s experience working in poor communities has taught her that while her people have human rights, many don’t know how to access them – she wants to see all Cambodians have enough to eat, accessible education, and full protection of their human rights. Sreymom says that “As education is a key factor in a country’s development, so every child must be provided chance to go to school, especially girls” because educated girls will grow up to be women who can make decisions about their lives, make their own money, and transfer knowledge to the next generation.
San is thrilled to be a part of the Free To Shine team, as this type of job has been his goal since he was in grade 9. While at school, San could not afford additional classes, he embraced the opportunity to attend free English classes offered by a pagoda and further ones offered by a small organisation. San has held many jobs including working in hotels and at an international airport. Whilst San did not particularly enjoy these positions, they enabled him to use the money he made to fund his university fees, gaining his degree in Information Technology. He promised his friends that once he was able to support himself, he would open up a small school to share his education so that more children could learn and support their families. He knows this is needed to help Cambodia grow. “Now I work at Free To Shine, I feel very happy to do this job to help the girls in the poor family,” says San.
Kimly moved from Phnom Penh to work as a social worker with Free To Shine. This is her first experience living independently away from her family. Despite a poor background, Kimly’s family place a high value on education and have helped support her and her younger brother through university. Kimly’s dream of gaining knowledge for a bright future is supported by her family and she succeeded in getting a state scholarship to study in the Social Work department at the Royal University, Phnom Penh. Through Social Work internships, Kimly has conducted community outreach programs in slum areas, worked with children and families, garment workers and sex workers. Kimly’s experience has shown her that many girls are exploited and abused by the people around them, however, she believes that we are all born, equally as humans and should have the same rights to equal opportunity. “I want to see all girls be strong, they should be protected in a safe environment and they should get equal opportunities to boys to get a high education,” says Kimly. “I am very happy to work with Free To Shine, it’s a great opportunity to empower all girls to access their rights and protect them from any kind of abuse or exploitation”.
The second of eight children born to very poor farmer parents in a rural area, and with limited early schooling because of poverty and hardly any support or encouragement, Kimsea left his family’s home when he was 12 to live in the local pagoda. There he progressed through primary school, serving the monks to pay his way. Kimsea helped two of his younger siblings to move to the pagoda with him so that they too could receive an education. In 2008 Kimsea moved to Siem Reap to live in a different pagoda while he attended secondary school, and was able to bring another of his siblings with him, working at an NGO to support them all. In 2014 he was awarded a university scholarship to study Agriculture in Siem Reap, and has now entered the third year of his degree. Kimsea has overcome many obstacles to ensure his own education and that of his siblings. He is a firm believer in the life-changing power of education and he uses his own story to connect with and inspire the girls on the Free To Shine program.
Bona has recently graduated from university with a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He chose this degree because his father once told him, “When you study this subject, it will help you in the future because our country will not stay still and we won’t use only one language; so choose to speak two”. Bona dreams of one day becoming an English teacher, “I’ve seen when I visit some villages, most of the rural students are still poor at foreign languages, especially English. Therefore, I want to help them to get the same knowledge that I have experienced. Moreover, it’s very easy for girls to get cheated by bad people if they are not educated. Through learning from books or teachers, they will know how to protect themselves from someone who wants to do bad things to them. I want my country to be more developed than now. Mostly, I want to see all of the girls in Cambodia get an education, in both rural and urban areas.”
“My dream is to make my mother and father happy, to be a good son, and have a good job.” Phanna comes from a small family and is extremely close with his parents. His father (and hero) supported his studies through tuk-tuk driving and his mother has instilled in him a strong sense of ethics. Whilst studying in grade 12, Phanna volunteered with a local NGO, Journey’s Within Our Communities. He was able to teach financial skills to families in the local villages to help them start a small business. He has just graduated University with a Bachelors degree in Law and Social Science. Phanna has such happy memories from his time in school and he hopes for a future in Cambodia where all girls and people have access to the opportunities that come from education.
Sayorn comes from a supportive family who have always encouraged her to study hard. Even when they had financial trouble, they never asked her to stop school. Now studying English Literature at University, Sayorn has experienced volunteering with many different organizations and with the help of some friends, she recently started running English and hygiene classes in her community and has also helped set up a small vegetable garden. Sayorn is a fierce defender of womens’ and girls’ rights. She says, “Being a girl is not something men should look down on. Cambodia will only succeed when all of us are equal.” Sayorn believes that there is a fundamental role for girls and women in developing the Cambodia of the future.
Visal has always wanted to work for a Non-Government Organization so that he could help the community of Cambodia. He says, “I really enjoy working with Free To Shine because we all work together to educate families on how to prevent sex trafficking. We encourage girls to get an education to improve their lives in the future.” While at University completing his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Visal worked as an English teacher and volunteered as a translator for an Australian medical organization. Visal’s hope for Cambodia is that those with an education will share their knowledge with the next generation, especially with young people in villages.
Chanthy loves learning new skills and languages. She recently graduated from University with a degree in English Literature. Whilst studying, Chanthy worked at a private school to support herself and her family. She is one of seven siblings, and the only one to have attended University. She says, “I think that I am so lucky in my family, they always support my education, even when we were poor. They also encourage me and never try to stop me from studying.” Chanthy believes that education for girls is important to help them protect themselves from exploitation, and to help them escape from poverty. “I want to see my country become more developed than now, especially our education system. I think Cambodia needs more education and to strengthen our human resources,” says Chanthy.
Daron comes to Free To Shine with a degree in Community Development. After finishing his degree, he spent ten months studying advanced agriculture at the International Center for Agriculture Training in Israel. This is Daron’s first experience working for an NGO, but he is determined to try his best. Daron says. “Girls will never be happy if they have to depend on a man for everything. I know that girls have the ability to lead their own lives and have potential to achieve all their goals. Cambodia needs more educated people to develop, including girls. We must all try to be good citizens of the world, good students, good children and good role models for one another.”
Ronouch found her passion for community development and teaching early on, through volunteering at an English school in her local community while she was in grade 10. She went on to volunteer with World Vision working with young children. When she moved into Siem Reap city for University, Ronouch chose Hospitality and Tourism for her major. She quickly realized that her dream is not to work with tourists, but with her people and community. She enrolled in English for Teaching. Ronouch says, “I want to see girls get educated and make Cambodia more developed. We have to show our girls that they have the power to change the world and not just believe that girls are only good at housework. I want to live in a world where there is no discrimination in our society. Real change won’t come from throwing money at problems and giving things away, real change will only occur when we invest time to educate all the people.’
Chanda has been involved with Free To Shine for several years, and in 2016 we are extremely proud to announce that she has made the successful transition from beneficiary to employee. Chanda was one of the very first girls to be accepted onto our program, “When I was in grade 9, I stopped going to school because I had a sickness that made marks on my face. I felt too shy and embarrassed to go to school. That was when Free To Shine enrolled me onto the program.” In 2015 she graduated from high school and began to study law at University, hoping one day to become a lawyer as she believes “it is important that people in Cambodia know and understand how laws should be used.” In August of 2016, Free To Shine was recruiting and invited Chanda to come in for an interview as her Education Officers had always spoken highly of her intelligence and warm personality. Chanda says, “I am very happy to do this work because I would like to help children to study more and see them have a good future.”