Growing up in poverty
Born in the province of Pursat in Cambodia, Sorya used to live with her two parents and four brothers and sisters. Every day, her mother left her children at a neighbour's house to roam the streets of the village, hoping to earn a bit of money.
When she was 12, her parents split up. Left alone with four children, her mother faced many challenges. In order to provide for her family, she left home to go to Phnom Penh with her eldest daughter. The two women lived in a tiny 20m² room that cost them 5 dollars a month and managed to survive by preparing meals for factory workers. However, her work did not allow either their conditions, or those of the brothers and sisters who had stayed behind to improve.
“Meanwhile, along with my younger brothers and sisters we had to learn to survive” Sorya remembers. Without any money, the siblings had to cope on their own. She didn’t know if her family would ever be reunited but she didn’t give up hope. It was above all her schooling that enabled her to cope with the situation. Her teachers used to help her by giving her a some of their food each day. “Because I studied well, my teachers gave me food.”
"School always supported me.
Education already meant a lot to this young girl; she knew that she would get by thanks to it.
Several months later, at the end 2001, Sorya’s life changed when her family reunited thanks to financial support of her eldest sister who was working in a factory. At the same time her mother heard about PSE. Three months later, Sorya and her sisters joined PSE’s school programme. “At first, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was being lied to. I didn’t want to go, until I saw the students with their uniforms.”
For Sorya, PSE is not just a school but a place to develop social skills and to be treated with respect.
"At the time, I had no understanding, no tools to escape poverty. I only had the desire to fight for my life, for my family and for the next generations."
During her school years, Sorya discovered hope and regained her smile, vital for life. Sorya graduated in 2008 and is happy and proud to be part of the big PSE family.
Doign well thanks to education
After her baccalaureate, Sorya set herself many goals and began a path to excellence. First, she enrolled in one of PSE’s vocational training courses – in childcare. “My childhood dream was to become a doctor, but I knew it would be complicated. This training course brought me closest to it.” Thanks to her certificate, she knew she would find a job and be able to help her family. “It was not my first choice. It was hard at first, trust me! But I believed it was my destiny. It was also a way to thank Papy and Mamie for everything they did for me.” Determined, Sorya finished her studies and found a job in a day-care centre as a nursing assistant. But the day-care centre was over 30 kilometres from her house and the job was not well-paid. Her hopes to help her family were quickly postponed. “I did not lose heart. I always told myself that it was a good starting point and that I would find better later.” A year later, she became teaching assistant in a French-English class, and three years later she became the day-care centre manager. “My efforts had paid off and I thrived.”
In parallel she studied for one diploma after another: a diploma in administration from the Cooperative International Centre in Cambodia, a diploma in French from the French Institute in Cambodia, a bachelor degree in international relations from the Asia-Euro University and a diploma in graphic design from the Association for the Development of Cambodian youth. A very impressive track record for Sorya who says with pleasure that “education is my best friend!”. She does it all not only for herself but specially to help those in need. “People often ask me why I have so many diplomas. For me, the number doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with them.” She hopes that what she has accomplished will help future generations.
Thanks to all her diplomas, Sorya became business officer at the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia. This change in her career is meaningful for Sorya. “I get to meet people, to use what I learned during my studies, to act for my country and to widen my ambitions.” In parallel, she is studying English at the Australian centre for education, and volunteers in the communications team of the Cambodian youth Collective.
All the values transmitted by PSE over the years are useful to Sorya in all the activities she does.
"Honestly, PSE is my second family. With them I learned to dream and understand who I am."
It’s her turn to help families like hers by teaching them important topics such as environment or gender equality.
When she thinks back to everything she’s been through, Sorya is very proud of her journey. “Despite all the difficulties I’ve been through, I am very happy with my current life, professionally and personally.” She adds: “I was homeless, and now I have a home to welcome my family, a good job, and I know that it’s only the beginning!”
But her desire to succeed doesn’t stop there. In the next few years, she wants to work in the field of education and human rights to help her country. Her objective? Not to forget where she comes from to give others what Papy and Mamie offered to her family. “PSE made me a gem and gave me the opportunity to see the beauty of our world,” she concludes.