THE STORY OF
I am Chheang Phalla, and I am responsible to the Cambodian Child and Hope Association.
Like so many other children born in a poor village, I did not go to school.
There were no schools and no teachers at that time.
Therefore in 1997, when I was 13 years old, my parents sent me to the Preah Dak Pagoda outside Siem Reap.
I worked there as a temple boy, helping the monks in their daily duties, hoping to become a monk myself. In return, the monks taught me to read and write in Khmer - our language – as well as mathematics and English.
In 2005 a family school was established in Preah Dak Village, and besides being a novice monk, I started teaching there as a volunteer.
In 2007 I became an ordained monk at the Preah Dak Pagoda.
As a Buddhist monk I walked the villages every morning with my bowl, collecting alms in the form of food. It is a way for people to show humility and respect to the monks.
I talked with the children and found out that most of them were of very poor families who were not able to send their children to school as they would have to provide them with school uniform, books, pen and notebook, and to pay extra fees to the teachers. Besides, the poor families need their children to help in the rice fields and with other household chores.
Other children I met were orphans whose survival was dependent on the mercy of the villagers.
Obviously, these children only have very limited chances in life, and they are at great risk of getting into problems like prostitution or drug addiction both of which are major problems in Cambodia.
At that time, I had nothing to support the education but an empty room. No books, no pens or paper for the children to make notes. So if tourists came by, I asked them for help to buy teaching material. I want to thank these tourists warmly because their help enabled me to get started.
In other villages, they soon heard about my project, and several village chiefs asked me if I could help them to establish a school in their village.
Therefore, in 2009, I decided to ask my prior at the pagoda if I could step back as a monk in order to devote all my time to the project.I felt the importance of helping these children so deeply.
Today we have five schools with more than 500 children.
I now know that by teaching these children to read and write Khmer as well as some English, they get a better chance in life.
The fact that we can move these children out of illiteracy, gives them a much stronger chance of a more meaningful life. However, we need more books and other educational material. We need funds to support salaries for the teachers.
Supporting us, is not only supporting more than 500 children, but also supporting Cambodia to recover after the fatal years of the Khmer Rouge.
Should you decide to help us I´ll be forever grateful.