The women of Cambodia are its backbone. Still defined by the commitment that comes with child bearing, they eke out life with courage, determination and a serenity that in their squalid surroundings is totally incomprehensible. Their strength gives Cambodia a future.
These stories celebrate their achievements and lament the tragedy of a critical life lost. Today we remember Ouy and the family she leaves behind.
Phalla had worked as a contract teacher in Puok, joining SeeBeyondBorders’ Teach the Teacher program in 2011. Puok district is extraordinarily poor, a place where qualified teachers are reluctant to work and hence the need to co-opt local people to teach as contract teachers.
A mother of two, Phalla is a natural who always wanted to becoming a fully qualified teacher but had dropped out of school because of her family’s circumstances. So as a first step, she needed to pass her grade 12 exams, and in 2013 decided to go back to her local high school to study at weekends. A year later she had passed.
Next she needed to take and pass the entrance exam to the Provincial Teacher Training College (PTTC), a highly competitive exam many just finishing high school try and fail.
To help Phalla, her school and her village, SeeBeyondBorders paid for her to take the entrance exam preparation course and associated accommodation. This meant her making a 30km trip into Siem Reap to stay over the weekends over three months.
“Thank you SeeBeyondBorders for supporting me until I passed the entrance exams,” she said in tears of excitement on the phone when she learned of her success. “I am so happy to pass the exams,” she added.
Phalla now has two years of training to complete, but is the pride of her family and community and will improve the opportunities for the local children when she gets back to her school as a fully qualified teacher.
On 3rd March, Ouy, a 26 year old mother of two and guardian to her 13 year old younger brother, died after falling from a palm tree while collecting palm leaves for her family to sell. Such is a typical tragedy to befall the many poor living in Angkor Thom district, Siem Reap province.
Ouy is survived by her 3-year-old boy and her six-month old baby girl who she was still breast-feeding. Her husband is nowhere to be seen. Her mother, Uk, is 50 years old, chronically sick and unable to work. Her father lost an arm and one eye from a landmine explosion during the Khmer Rouge regime. He has tetanus but works with others with disabilities earning $2 a day with which he helps support his family.
Ouy was the oldest of six children of whom 3 are still intermittently attending primary school. Her younger sister, 15, is still only in grade 4, her 13 year old brother is in grade 2 and the youngest, 10, is in grade 1. Last year the 13 year broke his leg in three places after coming off a motorbike.
And so the litany of difficulties continues.
We do what we can where we can, but it’s what we can’t do that is our greatest personal challenge.