My name is Yorn Chea. I was born in Ornlongkranh village, Kompong Thom province. In the late seventies the Khmer Rouge occupied our village and systematically killed or removed the families to take over their properties. Because the Khmer Rouge targeted the educated people in particular, Cambodia lost a whole generation of skilled teachers and doctors.

My father was killed when I was 4 years old, leaving my mother to raise me and my sisters on our small family farm. I was sick most of the time, as we had little food and clean water and more work than we could handle. I studied only the basics when I could. At this point, my family needed me to tend our cows, I was the only boy and my job as herder was the priority. I knew education was important, but had little choice.

My mother decided to remarry and left my sisters and me with my grandparents. I asked her to join the monks, as my friends that had gone could read and write, while I could not. I asked my family for money to go to the city to continue my studies, but got none.

Finally, my mother could sell a section of our land for US$15. I used this money to go Battambong to study. After I learnt to speak English, I began teaching Siem Reap’s poorest children who could not afford school.

I began with just a few benches, one map and one whiteboard, in my hut in at Angkor Sa Pagoda. Six boys came to the pagoda to live and study. Many more started attending my classes. We survived on donations and the money I received from offering prayers to the town people. The school grew so big that I had to look for another location. Now we are in the process of building our new school on the premises of the LHCCO in Siem Reap.


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