Hello everyone, I am really happy to introduce myself to you all. My name is Chendamony Thach, and I am 25 years old. I was born in Kampuchea Krom in Khleang Province; it is located on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. I am the third eldest in a family of three sons and three daughters. My mother is 50 years old; she works as a factory worker. My father is 55 years old and works in a rubber factory at Rattanakiri. If one takes the bus, the journey there is 10 hours long. It is very far away from Phnom Penh, so my father has not been able to visit often.
My parents have really tried their best to support all of their children and their education because they don’t want to see children suffer. I love and admire my parents so much. I am currently studying at Norton University (NU) and am majoring in Architecture Design. This reflects my parents’ dreams. When I was fourteen years old I live in Dey Krahorm Village, a slum area where playing cards and drug abuse was rife. Around me, prostitutes sought sex and many kids were not able to go to school. If you have never lived there, you would be afraid: it is a place where people live after being forcibly evicted, 22 kilometers away from Phnom Penh. In 2006 my family moved to live in Borey Sotepeap II. I studied at high school but the school was really far from my house, so it took two hours to go to and back from school on my bicycle. There were times when I felt very tired, but I never stopped and I always prayed for my family’s lives to be better. I volunteered as an English teacher and helped the environment with a youth group in Rudi Boa. I also worked as a cleaner at the Rudi Boa Centre in the evening after studying English. I always worked in a factory during my school holidays.
I know that for a 17-year-old everything I did was very difficult, but I just wanted to try my best because I wished to help my parents. In 2012 I graduated from high school and was able to study at Norton University of Architecture Design. The university was in Phnom Penh, so I needed to drive 44 kilometers on my motorbike to go to and back from university. I also had to work after school, so every day I woke up at 6:00am and returned home at 9:00pm. However, one day while walking back from school I was involved in a traffic accident; this made me more inclined to live in Phnom Penh with my brother in a small (2m x 2m) rental house. It was really hard to live in because it was incredibly hot with no fresh air. This was detrimental to my health and made me ill frequently, as I already had a weak immune system. Fortunately, in 2013 I was given a scholarship by the Advanced Centre for Empowerment (ACE) to live in a dormitory at the DLTC (Dormitory and Leadership Training Centre). I was also given a chance to join a study leadership program and to volunteer, which allowed me to help poor people in the community. I was able to volunteer as an art teacher at three communities and I also had a chance to create clothes (for a fashion show) for ACE’s parties such as their Christmas party, ACE annual party, Farewell party, New Year celebration, charity event and more. It made my mind much more creative!
Staying at ACE has given me so many prospects in life. I now live with ACE’s 18 other scholarship residents, and have learnt so many things from them; we have shared various ideas with each other and have made great memories together. We help each other, cook and have meals together. It feels like we are a family. ACE is much better than other places I have been to. It empowers us and makes us feel confident to join various trainings that are conducted by Mr. Sokchea SAING and other PhD trainers. We feel we have control of our own fate, and that we are able to look up high, reach our goals and become brilliant potential leaders. The provision of opportunities for us to contribute in helping to develop our community and Cambodia is what matters to me most. Because of ACE, my future looks bright. I wish to achieve my dream of becoming an architect and pursuing architecture and design. I am on my way, as I am currently working as an architecture and design assistant at 5 Bright Sibling Construction! Additionally, I work as an art teacher at the Young Leaders Centre, and have taught around 100 students!
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to all the members of Cambodian Kids Foundation, who continue spending their precious time and energy in supporting all the underprivileged students in Cambodia, giving us the chance to be educated and to have a bright and wonderful future. Your support means so much to us! Also I would like to thank my teacher Mr. Sokchea, who has given me the best opportunity by giving me the chance to stay at ACE; without you I probably would not have met all these good people, and I would not have believed that our dreams are attainable if we are strongly committed! Finally, I am very grateful for everybody at ACE who has welcomed me in with incredible compassion – they have helped me and shown so much support for me. THANK YOU ALL!!