Born on 02 April 1985 in Kandal province’s Kandal Steung district, Pheng Saochheng is the second child among six siblings whose father is an owner of a small-scale rice mill and mother is a grocer.
Like many other children, Saochheng was sent to a primary school in the village when he was 6 years old, but his family’s living condition was getting down time to time as there are many members in the families. This demanded the little children concentrate on not only studying but earning money to help the family as well.
While people were relaxing at night, he went shrimping (Chhoukkampis) during dry season in a canal about 5 kilometers from his house.
“I went to bed late and got up early to take the shrimp to sell at the market to get some money to support my study, but some days, my shrimp was stolen, which made me so sad,” Saochheng looked into the ground while recounting his past.
Saochheng became interested in learning English when he was in grade 9, and he had a clear idea that having high knowledge of English would be easy for him to find a good job and to communicate worldwide, so he started doing an English part-time course. He had to get up at 5a.m. and organized the grocery store for his mother before he left for studying English at 5:20 in the morning. He had to work harder to be able to study, but he never gave up his goal and kept learning English. “Life is Struggle is the phrase I always keep in mind,” he said.
Saochheng graduated from high school in 2002, but his family could not afford his study at university. “I feel very upset when I see my friends and others dress in a school uniform,” he said. Sitting on a chair, the 26-year-old added in a soft voice that, “I felt very pity of myself when seeing other families whose living conditions was worse than my family decided to send their children to pursue bachelor’s degree.”
With his strong commitment and his hopefulness, Saochheng has spent nearly two years working as a waiter in Phnom Penh to save up money to pursue his study. Optimistically, a clear goal was built in his mind at that time; he perceived that further education was inevitable for him to free his life ahead from hardship. He always read books before going to bed.
His dream of being a university student came true in 2004 when he enrolled in Asia Europe University in a major of Teaching English as Foreign Language B.Ed (TEFL). It’s more likely that his life reached to the turning point, from a waiter to a university student. To better his life, he changed his job to be a part-time translator at World Vision Organization and a volunteer for the Youth Council of Cambodia (YCC). With the guidance from his colleagues and supervisor, his new career life visibly blossomed.
Later on, he was selected as a provincial representative assistant staff of YCC for one year. In 2007-2009, Saochheng was a Kandal Provincial Representative at YCC. In the meantime, he worked as a freelance researcher for the Professor Alliance for Development (PAD).
Working so hard and making remarkable achievements in YCC characterized him to be nominated to participate in the 2ndUNESCO Asian Youth Forum on the theme of Sustainable Community in Asia, held in Gwangju City, Republic of Korea, from 26-30 June 2008.
Chances always approach to one finding them. Hearing about Youth Leadership Challenge (YLC), he decided to grasp the chance. He applied as a candidate in it, and he was selected as one contestant among 16 contestants who were selected from 500 candidates through many processes and tests.
Saochheng is a man on move and wants to learn new things, so he decided to leave YCC and work as a program coordinator/director assistant at Mith Samlanh/Friends based in Phnom Penh. The man experiencing as a poor youth said, “I really like working with street children/youth and related groups to create innovative and exciting opportunities to build their futures.”
Although now he had a high position in the organization as a Monitor and Evaluation Manager of Mith Samlanh/Firends, he didn’t give up studying. He is pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at National University of Management (NUM).
“Struggling starts from the initiative of ourselves until we get successful,” he said.Article by: Vorn Sokhan
Vorn Sokhan is a freelance journalist and a year 2 student in Media Management at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC) of Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).