Meet Mr. Chheang Sokmean
I grew up in a very poor family in a farming province. I have one young brother and three younger sisters. My mother sold clothes on the side of the road. My father left my family to live with another girl in another province 1993. He left without a word and has never come back.
My mother did need to earn enough money to provide for five children and a 77 year old grandmother. So my siblings and I attended school in the mornings, and we helped mother to sell clothes in the afternoon. We worked all day and never had lunch. As we grew up all of us knew how to cook and make food by our self, even my younger 4 and 6 year old sisters. Every day my younger sisters cook and look after grandmother and make food for themselves, they do the great job.
Unfortunately, in 1997 my grandmother fell sick with high blood pressure. As the situation was so difficult, one of my younger sisters had to give up her school and sell the clothes instead of my mother at the market. My mother was busy taking care of grandmother. My grandmother then passed away.
My mother also wanted me to stop to study and help to earn money, but I did not follow because I really wanted to study and never want to stop school. I had to find some more work to do and I needed to work harder and harder. I still attended school in the morning. I was in grade 9. I usually cut water lilies and brought them to sell at the local market. I got 100 Riel (2.5 cents) for a bag, and I sold 20 bags per day.
I also did other things to earn money such as laundry where I earned 2000-2500 Riel per day (50 cents). I worked and studied until I graduated my grade 12. I did want to continue to University but I could not afford to study. My mother kept working hard and did not worry about her health. Sadly, in 2001, my mother was very sick. She got sad and her left arm could not hold anything anymore.
Even though I did want to continue to finish my education I had to care for my mother and all of my brother and sisters, and help them continue with school. So I decided to look after my mother business, selling clothes.
Every day I travel to buy the clothes in Phnom Penh. I go by truck. I normally leave home in the morning and stay one night, and come back in the next day, one time a month. During that time it was so hard to me to sell the clothes. I was not as good in selling as my mother. However I tried to learn to sell and I always think about my family and my mother, and even sometime I could not sell much but I had to continue to sell because I loved my family.
I kept selling the clothes until I was 21 years old. After that I knew how to sell and I could get better income, enough to provide for family and pay for my mother’s sickness. The medicine could not fix my mother and the doctor said she has an illness caused from she thinks and worries a lot. We had no idea, but someone told us about a person who is very good in using Khmer Medication which he makes from the skin of the trees. I brought my mother to see him and got the treatment. My mother has used Khmer medicine for 5 month and was feeling better and not so sick any more.
As we no longer had to pay for expensive medicine for my mother, I started to save a little money to pay for University. I did this for the next two years. In the end of 2005, I moved to live in Phnom Penh with my friend Bin Narom. I left my mother’s small business with my younger sister.
When I got to PP I did not enroll at University because I did not have enough money to pay the amount. I just attended computer classes. I studied 8 hours a day learning computer program for one year. As I have completed the computer program, I could apply to WEC International to be a computer teacher. I worked for one year and kept saving money for University.
In 2007, I had enough money to pay for the first semester of Year 1 at University. It cost 200 $US. I learned Computer program education, and I attended school just for one semester. After that I moved to live in Siem Reap to find the better job to do because there were a lot of people in PP and it was hard to get much salary or income. Another thing was it was so easier to visit my mother and sister.
I have been living in Siem Reap in 2008. I studied at Build Bright University at night and I worked all day. I fixed computers as my income.
In 2010 I gained employment at a non government organization as their IT man, (updating website, fixing computers and setting up programs). I really loved to work with NGO very much. In July 2011, I completed final exam of bachelor degree. I did want to continue to Master Degree but could not afford to pay for school. I did not want to lose it because it is my dream.
An Australian charity organization, Nepcam kindly offered to support my MscIT (Master of Science in Information Technology) for the 2 years needed.
Since the end of 2012 I have been working happily with Feeding Dreams Cambodia as their IT Specialist, teaching 4 classes of poor students per day, website and computer maintenance, as when I work for Feeding Dreams I can remember my life.