PAWA supports the Ponheary Ly Foundation in Cambodia through the funding of dormitory facilities for girls living in rural villages to allow them to continue their education in town.

Two girls and their families talk about what securing a place in the dormitory has meant to them.

Lun Phancheng

Why did you/your daughter move away from the family to continue her education?

Father: At first I didn’t want her to go far from us. The nearest high school is Bakong High School, I wanted her to go there. However, the round trip is more than 30km to get there and back home. We didn’t have a motorbike that Phancheng could use regularly; it would have been so difficult.

Phancheng: From the start I knew that I needed to go to Siem Reap to finish my education, despite the sacrifices that would mean for both my family and me.

Father: For our son’s it’s easier; they could go to Bakong High School and live in the pagoda close to the school with the monks, but this option isn’t there for our girls. My friend already had a daughter renting a tiny room in Siem Reap, so I felt OK sending my daughter there at first. But the reality was much tougher, it really affected the family financially and emotionally.

What sacrifices did you and your daughter have to make to allow her to finish high school?

Mother: Siem Reap is such a foreign place to us, even though it’s only around 30km away. We were scared someone would do something to hurt our daughter, or that she’d be led astray by others.

Father: It’s not easy in our culture to allow your daughter to live away from the family. A lot of our extended family didn’t approve, they would look down on us as parents. They didn’t think of the benefits of her finishing her education, only the negative aspects.

It was also difficult financially before Phancheng was awarded the scholarship to the Dormitory. She stayed with a friend and if we didn’t have money to send, she didn’t have food to eat.

Phancheng: At first it was so difficult. I called home 3 times per week. But then I didn’t have money to put credit on my phone and I just wanted to run back home. Luckily I got the scholarship to come to the Dorm and it made things easier for my family and me. It gave us security and allowed me to focus on school.

Are there many other families in your area making similar sacrifices?

Father: Mostly, their daughters will stop school after grade 9, or some even earlier than that. Nowadays it’s getting better, since they’re just preparing to open a high school in our area. For me, I know the value of education and the difference it can make to their earning potential in the future. I don’t allow any of my children to drop out of school.







Sek Saveak

Why did you/your daughter move away from the family to continue her education?

Mother: Saveak really wanted to finish high school, so there was no choice but to send her to study in town, since there’s no high school nearby. Her uncle who works as a migrant in Thailand helped Saveak to sell the idea to me; at first I was against it.

It was a decision that caused a lot of turmoil in the family. Saveak’s father has been absent since she was young. She’s the eldest child too, so I relied a lot on her for help at home.

Saveak: It was my idea to move away from home and I had to work hard to make my mother see the big picture and allow me to go. She wanted me to have a good education and a good job in the future but she needed my support at home too. It wasn’t an easy decision.

What sacrifices did your family have to make to allow her to finish high school?

Mother: I don’t have a steady income, so that made it very tough. I go around the village every morning and buy vegetables from other villagers, then go to sell them at the local market.

My son (the second eldest) dropped out of school after grade 5 to help more at home. He wasn’t clever and didn’t take education seriously. I feel bad that he couldn’t make it like Saveak, but Saveak is the one who’s so clever and we know she can be successful.

Saveak: Not many others in my village can finish school like me. There’s only one boy a few years older than me that I can think of. That’s how difficult it is for young people like me to move away from our families. It’s difficult culturally and also emotionally.

At first, before I was accepted to the Dorm, I lived with a friend. Life was very tough; some days we had nothing to eat except some rice gruel. Mum sent money when she could. Sometimes rice was all she had to send. And we were afraid all the time.

It was so far too and I didn’t even have a phone to call home. Occasionally I could borrow my classmate’s phone to call home. I used to bicycle home to visit every few months, but it was more than 30 km and it was so far and tiring in the heat.

What does family mean in Cambodia?

Mother: Family is everything. For poor people like us it’s all we have. Our extended family is our support network; we can’t rely on the government for many things. That’s why it was so difficult to send Saveak away to complete her education.. We were so lucky that she can be safe at the Dormitory and have the chance to focus 100% on school; many families are not so lucky.








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