A number of our sponsored girls have come to us through Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre as victims of domestic or sexual violence. In order to respect their privacy and to keep them safe, the girls remain anonymous. Here is one story:
“When I was seven my mum had to leave me at home every day while she went to work in the garment factory. My step-father didn’t work; he drank and liked to play cards with the neighbours. We couldn’t afford for me to go to school; the uniforms and books were too expensive and I couldn’t pay the daily fee to the teachers for the lesson materials. So I stayed home, I served the men drinks and tried to keep to myself. One day after the men left, my step-father raped me. It felt like the worst day of my life …… and it continued.
My mum and I were forced to run away to hide from my step-father. We hid in a shelter for almost a year; we had no home and my mum had to change her job. Now she is a cleaner, day and night, and we live in a small hut at the back of the building where she works.
Now I go to school, and I study really hard. Lotus Outreach Australia have given me a uniform and books, and provide rice so I don’t have to work like my mum. I am doing well and I am so thankful to have this opportunity.”
We are a poor family from a poor community so when I was young I only went to school when there was money to pay fees. I had no school materials and no bicycle and school was very far.
In grade 7 the principal said I was a good student and told me that LOA could help poor girls continue their education.
I was so happy to receive a GATE Scholarship. I studied hard for my education and I will get a good job to support my family. They are very proud of me.
Without LOA support I would be working in a garment factory today and being exploited like my sisters, instead, I am completing an IT and Web Development degree at University.
I want to work for the ASEAN Foundation and get a scholarship to study abroad, then come back and work to improve life for poor people in Cambodia.
The GATE program changed my life. I tell girls in my community about the importance of education and staying at school. But many are forced to drop out and work in factories or on building sites to help support their very poor families. So many need help.
My family came from Kampong Cham province to Phnom Penh to find work and for the children to have an education. In the provinces children cannot study because the are not well paid and they need to find another job to increase their income.
(Her father died in an accident. Her mother earns USD130 per month working six days a week. USD50 goes to rent and water and what’s left must cover the sister’s education, food and medical expenses.)
To be in this GATE program has changed my family life. We don’t have so many worries, my study has improved very much and I get good grades. Without LOA I would drop out of school and I would work in the garment factory
When I finish high school I will go to university to study medicine and become a nurse. I have family who are sick and I want to help other people too because I have seen many sick people. I also want to help my family by earning money and I want to be a good citizen and not do anything wrong to society.
Very big risks here are sex and human trafficking and illegal migration. Domestic violence is a problem too. My friend in the same scholarship program lives in a domestic violence situation.
I could not study if I was not in the GATE program. I would not have materials, books, uniforms or money to pay for school. I would never go to university and I would not get a good job to support my family.
When I finish school I will go to university to study to become a tour guide for English and Chinese speaking visitors to Cambodia. I want to do this for my country, to show visitors the history and the culture of Cambodia.
I do not like to work in a garment factory, this is not a good job, but I work there in the school vacation to get money for food. That’s why I tell girls to go to school because studying is the only way to get a good job and enough money to support the family and to develop our community.
I don’t want my family and me to live in poor conditions any more and I want a better community with no addictions, no gambling, no thieving. I want all the girls and all the children to go to school. I don’t want people to always see my community as poor.