I was born and raised in Odor-Meanchhey province, which is a rural village 40kms outside of Siem Reap. I have one older brother and one older sister. Unfortunately, my brother passed away during the Khmer Rouge when he was only one. My father moved to Angkor Krav and my mother lived in Chansor. Because they were not living together, they decided to separate and I moved to live in Siem Reap and worked a housekeeper when I was 11 years old. My sister was taken to live with my father, and since that day, I have never heard from her again.
When I was 18 years old, I went to visit my mother but unfortunately, I was forced into an arranged marriage with a soldier. Together, we had 5 children. When my children were young, I worked in a laborious job, working extremely long hours farming whilst my ex-husband chopped wood. Unfortunately, the income that he received he spent on alcohol, and so we were living in very poor conditions. During my marriage, I was a victim of domestic abuse. It was very difficult for me to leave, but my ex-husband would become very violent when he drank alcohol. The turning point for me was when my ex-husband violently attacked my son with an axe, causing him life-changing injuries. This traumatic event enabled me to gain the strength to leave for the safety of myself and my children.
Living independently, the financial responsibility of raising 5 children fell on my shoulders. For five years I worked two different jobs, as a housekeeper and a cleaner, to support my family. We didn’t have much money and so my children only received informal education at a pagoda. We didn’t have enough food to eat, so my eldest son went to work in a Vietnemese brick factory in another province by himself. He was only 13 years old. He worked 15 hours a day and the money he earned was just enough to pay for his food. Because my family was in debt, he took a small loan from his boss of $250. The working conditions were so tough so most employees did not last long there, and he was afraid to work there alone. However, he had no choice because he needed to pay back the loan. Luckily, I was able to borrow money from my previous employer and get him back to Siem Reap.
I then joined REACH as a cleaner and my children were also enrolled into the school. I am very happy that I am now able to spend more time with my children and that they have access to a good education – something that I never had myself. In the future, I would like to be a cook at a school or NGO as I can see how much the students benefit from their daily meals.