My name is Khourn Sreythuch, I was born in Kokithom village, Kokithom commune, Kean Svay district and Kandal province. I am 20 years old and I have three siblings. My parents are coffee sellers, and they earn 50,000 riels ($12.50) per day. In addition to daily expenses, this money funds my and my siblings’ educations.
When I was in grade 10 and 11, my mother encouraged me to work in the factory to help make our lives better. However, I didn’t agree with her. I said I wanted to pursue my education and finish high school. I told her that I would do my best to pass the national exam. She agreed. Unfortunately, I broke my word – I did not pass my exam. I was a good student. I didn’t miss a single class and I worked really hard every day, but I still failed. It was heartbreaking to hear that students who weren’t as diligent and had missed lots of class had passed the exam. Lots of questions crossed my mind: How did this happen? Where had I gone wrong? Why me? The news tore me apart and challenged my parents’ investment in my education.
My parents had always encouraged me to move on; to push through struggles in life; to fight for my future and never give up. I was given a chance to work in a factory 15 km away from my house. I was asked to work in quality control, checking the factory’s product of gloves. When there were no goods I was allowed cut fur gloves instead. Even when we did nothing wrong we were blamed by the people in higher positions. They didn’t reason with us, they said we were making excuses. I found this hard. Sometimes I cried – but I never told my parents. I went to work even I was sick because I knew that if I didn’t, my salary would be cut.
I was a garment worker for a year. I knew that if I continued to work there, my knowledge wouldn’t continue to grow. I wasn’t eager to stay. I wanted a change. In my free time, I tried to do exercises and review course material from grade 12. I wanted to retake my exam. To my great joy, I passed my exam and was finally accepted to a university in Phnom Penh.
One day, I met a teacher at Kandal Community Centre (KCC), Miss Vuthy Phaier. She told me about the Advanced Centre for Empowerment. I decided to apply, and I was called for an interview. Finally, I was lucky to get the opportunity to be an English teacher for KCC as well a place to stay in the ACE dormitory in Phnom Penh. I believe that this NGO is extremely good for society as it helps alleviate the poverty cycle. Being one of its residents, I am able to gain more experience as well as get scholarships to study. I sincerely thank the Advanced Centre for Empowerment for giving me this valuable scholarship and allowing me to study at the Australian Centre for Education.