PEPY Staff Tell Their Stories of Growing up in Rural Cambodia & Hope for the Future

Posted on: July 9, 2019 Posted by: Kaia Smith Comments: 0

PEPY Staff Tell Their Stories of Growing up in Rural Cambodia & Hope for the Future

Many of PEPY’s staff members are from our target areas and have been through our programs. They understand the backgrounds and experiences of the students we work with, as well as the value of PEPY’s programs in the long-term. To explore this in more detail, we asked them to talk about their own stories, and their thoughts on the future of their communities.

Kim Ann:

I was born in a poor community where education, proper healthcare and nutrition are very limited. Social norms and the lack of education shaped a pressuring environment, especially on women, to explore and reach their potential. Child labor and violence were other negative impacts on children’s futures.

After having overcome these challenges myself, I feel like I have set myself free. But I am still thinking of what I can do to improve the circumstances of others who have not been so fortunate. In my community, there are still high dropout rates, many young females getting married, and lots of people migrating illegally to work in Thailand. My teachers in school were all survivors and victims of a civil war, and most of them did not even finish secondary school themselves. So what would you guess my probability was of reaching a high quality life? Personally, I agree with Mandela’s quote “Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.” And I believe that PEPY’s work has focused on this key factor to open up the door to disadvantaged youth so they can explore their potential and reach their dreams.

After receiving an education, I was able to recognize my strengths (and weaknesses). I learned to believe in myself and to use feedback to improve. Now, I am confident, independent, sympathetic, and sensible. As for my community, I think we are improving. Mindsets are probably the hardest things to change and education is the best way of embracing facts and changing faulty opinions. Investing resources in education takes time to manifest, but we are starting to see that it is worthwhile. Cambodia needs to continue improving its education system so every youth feels empowered to reach their potential.

I am most proud of myself for transforming my life, accessing higher education, and becoming a social worker. Secondly, I admire myself for co-forming a youth group called Youth of Cambodia to promote education, traditional Khmer culture, and environmental protection. Lastly, I am proud of myself for supporting my own family.


Since high school, I worked very hard to overcome criticism from my neighbors about studying as they do not understand the value of education. Because my community is located close to the Thai border, they preferred to drop out and migrate to Thailand for work. They thought I was strange for being the only girl from the village continuing her schooling, and they used aggressive words against me which broke my heart. I wanted to prove to them that education would be worth it. After receiving a scholarship from PEPY, I was able to show the people in my village that I could not only help myself but other students. Now, my dream is to work in the Ministry of Education to reinforce positive change in the Cambodian education system.

Without this scholarship, my life would be like a boat on the sea with no direction. I would probably be working in Thailand or as a housewife. Instead, my neighbors have changed their perspectives from seeing the positive example I have set – I am one of the luckiest women in the village, I think. I have a good job and I have become a role model for the children and even adults in my community. I am so delighted for what I have achieved even if I have not reached my biggest successes yet. Overall, I believe that small improvements together can change the world – take it one step at a time.


As someone from a family with economic hardship, I am the only one of my six siblings who has had the opportunity to go to school. I faced so many challenges to complete high school: I didn’t have enough money to pay for extra classes, I had to move in with a friend because my home was too far from school, and there were no good role models or information about opportunities for skilled employment.

PEPY’s Dream Management Project helped me gain knowledge about education and gave me confidence to pursue education. Then, I was fortunate to be selected for the PEPY scholarship and pursue my bachelor’s in General Management, while attending PEPY’s Learning Center to improve my skills. In 2015, I was even chosen to attend an exchange program in Vietnam and in 2018 for a three-week program in Ireland.

I have always wanted to give back to my community, which is why I applied to work with PEPY’s Dream Program. Now, as coordinator of this project, I try my best to be a good role model for them. I am so happy to see the high school retention and university entrance rates increase each year.

PEPY transformed my life and my family’s perspectives on education. As a PEPY staff member, I have been able to support myself, my parents’ healthcare, and school costs for my nephews and nieces. After seeing this, many of my fellow villagers have started to send their children to school.


In my opinion, poverty is not just about money. It’s about equality of living, including lack of access to education. When I was in Kralanh I felt separate from the beautiful parts of the world, especially because I saw that most of the families in my community were migrating to work in construction in Thailand to earn money. This is why I believe in PEPY’s work as educators – if all students can get higher education and proper skills they will be able to support their families and communities to develop themselves as they choose. Before, no one in my community went on to higher education, so that is the reason why they do not think that continuing in school is a good choice. However, things are changing. After I received a PEPY scholarship, many of them ask about my job, studying, and opportunities that are available to their children. I am happy to think that I and others in my generation are becoming role models for younger people in my community. I feel that in the future my community will be well educated.