In 1995, I was forced to quit formal education after fifth grade due to my family’s inability to pay the $5 bribe required for a passing grade. Despite being ignored and discriminated against as a child born into poverty, today I see that these difficulties and hardships make me stronger. I was not only hungry physically; I was also hungry spiritually and intellectually, so I decided I should join the monkhood.
My new life started in the temple in 1996. From there, I got everything I needed to continue my education and change the cause of my life. I started my education in Buddhist primary school, eventually graduating from high school and continuing to universities in the USA.
Along the way, in 2000, at the age of 20, I was voted by my fellow monks to become a senior leader of Wat Damnak in Siem Reap. Since then, I have felt a great privilege and an obligation to advocate for and give voice to those who are voiceless such children, and young girls.
This situation faced me with some worrying questions. What would my nation’s future look like if today’s poorest children grew up with no education? What would our future be if many disadvantaged young girls becoming mothers without skills and education? The answer is clear: history would keep repeating itself.
This is the motivation that led me to create the Life and Hope Association (LHA) in 2005. It was based on a simple principle: “to bring HOPE into LIFE through compassionate CARE and EDUCATION”. Our equation is that: “LIFE + HOPE = CHANGE; and LIFE + HOPE + EDUCATION = A GREATER CHANGE”.
In addition to the work at LHA, I was an elected CCC-member (country coordinating committee for Global Fund in Cambodia), the head of NGO Network in Siem Reap Province, and head of Social Service Network Against Child Labor. Prior to this affiliation at Wat Damnak, I worked as program manager of the Salvation Center Cambodia, related to HIV/AIDS and as provincial monk core trainer on HIV/AIDS and drug prevention programs.
Now, I am working as Deputy Director of the Cabinet-Senior Minister-Minister at Ministry of Public Works and Transport – MPWT and former Cabinet’s Senior Minister/Minister and Advisor to the Ministry of Commerce at Ministry of Commerce.
I obtained my BA from St. Ambrose University, Iowa, USA in 2010, and a Master Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2013.
Adam Dedman serves as Director of the Institute of South East Asian Affairs (ISEAA). Adam grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, USA, where he was raised bilingual English and Japanese. He studied Comparative Religion and Philosophy from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan at the undergraduate level and religion and gender at Harvard University for graduate work. During graduate school, Adam received a fellowship from the Japan-America Society to conduct a year of research in Japan on post-WWII Japanese religious movements. It was during this year in Japan that Adam had an “awakening” and changed his field to Thai Studies. Adam speaks Thai, Japanese, Spanish, and English. These skills have been put to good use by his serving as an official interpreter for Miss Japan and Miss Thailand at various Miss Universe Pageants around the world. Apart from directing ISEAA, Adam also lectures in gender and social issues of Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Pushpi is presently the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Civil Society Coordinator hosted by Transparency International Sri Lanka, an International Peacebuilder and Developer specializing in Policy & Restorative Justice with experience spanning three continents. She initiated and coordinated the Reconciliation Secretariat for the Sri Lankan government, coordinated projects on reconciliation and development for Search for Common Ground, worked at Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery, UNDP, and the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations in New York. During the Sri Lankan conflict she was the Program Manager Legal at the International Development Law Organization, Conflict Transformation Manager at the Business for Peace Alliance and the Director/Registrar at the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute.
In recognition of her services to the field of Peacebuilding and the betterment of the society Pushpi received the ‘Award of Excellence’ from the Education & Skills Minister UK, the Rotary International ‘Peace award’, and the Rotary International ‘Service Citation’ Award among many others.
Pushpi holds a Master in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government as the Mason Fellow/ E. Stokey scholar, Masters in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University as a Rotary Ambassadorial scholar and Postgraduate Diplomas in Business Administration, International & Commercial Law & LLB from the University of Wales & Buckingham UK. She is also an IVLP member of the US State Department and a trained Mediator from Harvard Law School.