University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia

by Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
University for Low-Income Students in Cambodia
Bun Leang
Bun Leang

Bunleang grew up in the countryside of Cambodia in a Christian family. Bunleang’s father worked faithfully for many years as a construction worker to support his wife and six childrenBut eventually, as his body grew slower and weaker with old age, he could no longer continue. Some time later, Bunleang’s mother also accidentally fell and broke her hip. She needed surgery, but the doctor refused to operate because she had diabetes. The resulting great expense of providing medical care for Bunleang’s mother drove the family into financial debt.  

 

Bunleang possesses musical talent; and, through childhood and adolescence, he performed musically while sharing the gospel in surrounding villages. Because of Bunleang’s academic potential and his family's financial hardships, CWEF donors awarded him a university scholarship. 

 

Bunleang began by pursuing an associate degree in his hometown and then later transferred to a university in Phnom Penh to study engineering. Bunleang studied hard. He most enjoyed listening to professors who shared stories from their on-the-job engineering experiences. But Bunleang also struggled to adjust to life in the big city. He felt lonely. All his family and friends lived back in his hometown, and he knew no one else in Phnom Penh. Once, he even regretted coming to the big city and wished he had stayed in his hometown. Also, he felt very stressedHe knew that his family needed money to pay for his mother’s medical debts, but he didn’t have a job.

 

But while still in school, he did find a job as part of a company's technical team. Bunleang explains, "(At first), I didn't understand a single word of the technical English terms used on engineering sites, but that is a good starting point for me to work harder. It took me two years and a lot of effort to learn how to be skilled at my job, but now I've been working for three years and am the senior technical project manager." 

 

This year Bunleang will graduate with a degree in engineering. He says,  

 

“...if I continued to live in my hometown without furthering my studies, I really can’t imagine what my life would be likeBut now I have a job, and I dream that I can support myself and give back to my family." 

 

Throughout this year, Bunleang has described his life as a blessing, and CWEF has been a big part of that: providing support and encouragement. Bunleang says,  

 

"CWEF support such as: school fees, some living costs before I was strong enough to seek a job, housing fees, and another extra course...CWEF takes good care of me… I was so grateful for their support. 

 

Bunleang surely will not stop here. He has more goals he wants to achieve in the coming years. He states, "Education plays a big role in transforming my life. First, I become knowledgeable, and it opens my vision to see the next plan for what I want to achieve more, for example, in 5 years or 10 years." 

 

Bunleang is so grateful to God for blessing him in every way, and he is thankful to everyone at CWEF for providing him with a scholarship and a chance to pursue higher education! Now, through this chance, he was able to make his dream come true, and he looks forward to pouring into his church and community in the future!

Bun Leang with his team at work
Bun Leang with his team at work
Bun Leang visiting a work site
Bun Leang visiting a work site
Bun Leang with his family
Bun Leang with his family
Serving on the worship team!
Serving on the worship team!

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Dropping Out of School

Her name is Sreymom; she is Cambodian. She grew up in a village as the oldest of five children. Sadly, when she was just twelve years old her mother died. Then helping her father earn an income for the family became her responsibility too, and after she completed sixth grade, her father asked her to begin full-time factory work.  

Sreymom describes, "In my village, mostly at the age of 12–13 years old, (the young people) will (lie about) their age in order to work in a factory. They don’t want to study but want to work in a factory where they can earn money and become beautiful. However, I don’t want to work there. I want to study even though I don’t know what it will become. I still want to study. " 

At twelve years old, Sreymom was underweight. When factory managers saw her small size, they refused to hire her. Not a single factory accepted her. However, every other one of Sreymom’s friends, who were of normal height and weight, received job offers and began working full-time in factories just like they had dreamed of. 

After all the factory rejections, Sreymom’s father sat back and considered what to do. If not in a factory, where else could he find work for Sreymom? Soon he found a skills training center in Kompong Chnang province for women who had dropped out of school. The center taught marketable skills like sewing and cooking. 

An Unexpected Opportunity

Sreymom really did not want to go to the training center. She wanted to continue her formal education. But she could not speak up or refuse her father. So in the end, she left home and began the multiple day journey to her new life at the skills training center. On the way, she stopped to lodge a single night with one of her relatives. The relative worked as a cook at a Christian orphanage called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO). This 'chance' visit would change Sreymom's life forever.

While she was visiting, the CRO manager also met Sreymom and found out about where she was headed and why. In that one evening, the director ended up inviting Sreymom to live at CRO instead and pursue her studies there. After some initial surprise and discussion, Sreymom eventually agreed.

But the decision didn't come without cost. When Sreymom's father found out about the sudden change in plans, he became upset; and for the whole first year, he couldn't support it.  He very much wanted Sreymom to give up her formal education so that she could earn money. But finally, the CRO director was able to talk with her father and explain the benefits of Sreymom furthering her education, and Sreymom's father eventually agreed.

The Love and Care of Strangers

When Sreymom first heard of God at CRO, she was incredulous. She firmly committed herself to not believing in him. However, day by day, God used the people at the center to give Sreymom some of the love and care that she had never experienced before.  

She confesses, "No one forced me to believe in God at all, but their kindness and love from people that I have met...they treated me like family. And that made me open my mind unnoticedly."

Through CRO, Sreymom eventually successfully completed middle school and also high school. But then, she faced a new problem: she could not afford college.

College Problems

At this time, Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation (CWEF) was introduced to Sreymom and took up her case. CWEF fundraised through generous people like you to provide Sreymom with the necessary funds and an opportunity to fulfill her college dream.

And then, thanks to her own determination as well as a scholarship provided through the kindness of people like you, a well-known university in Phnom Penh admitted Sreymom as an English major!

At university, Sreymom faced many other battles including the fact that mastering the English language was incredibly challenging. At one point, she almost wanted to drop out of college altogether. But...her now personal faith in God kept her strong. Throughout this season of Sreymom’s life, CWEF staff continued to surround her with encouragement and a loving community. 

Sreymom's Success

And in the end, she made it! Not only through middle school but through college. She achieved the dream that at one point looked impossible. After successfully graduating from college, Sreymom received job offers with good salaries from schools in Phnom Penh. But she turned down every single offer. Her desire wasn't to make a lot of money. Instead, she desired to give back to the people that gave so much to her. Now she is working full-time at the Child Rescue Organization that she used to live at providing English lessons to more than one hundred Cambodian students for free.  

Today Sreymom says, “There are many kids who need my help to provide them with knowledge, and this is the best way that I could contribute back to my community."  

Sreymom is grateful to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation and all those who helped her on her journey! Now she can use her knowledge and story to inspire the next generation of students to not drop out of school but pursue their dreams instead.

It's extremely exciting to see how everything Sreymom has learned, spiritually and educationally, is already spilling over and building up the next generation! Thank you for helping to break the cycle of poverty for young people like Sreymom through your generous giving and support of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation.

See more casual updates about the work of CWEF by following us on Facebook!

Read more about the impact of your donations here.

This story was written by Panhary, CWEF Education Program Coordinator in Cambodia, with April Chiasson, CWEF Communications

Sreymom graduating from university!
Sreymom graduating from university!
Sreymom with her students
Sreymom with her students

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Ruth
Ruth

There’s no use studying. Your family will never make it out of these rice fields. But if you go study in the city, be careful not to come back pregnant. Ruth, a young Cambodian girl, heard these words from her neighbors more than once. They pierced her heart every time. But she is strong. "I am going to prove them wrong,” Ruth said, believing that God would provide a way.

Ruth was born on an island without enough teachers. To get a better education, her parents sent her far away to live with her grandparents and three of her uncles, who often drank too much. Through tears, Ruth still recalls nights when her intoxicated uncles did things like smash through their household door with an axe.

Ruth’s father works in farming and construction as well as selling fish, snails, and frogs. Still, resources were few. "I didn’t have books to read,” Ruth admitted, “or enough study materials for my schoolwork..."

But eventually, through your generous donations to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, Ruth received a scholarship to attend university in Phnom Penh, and her life completely changed:

“Honestly, it was just like a dream...” she said. “I could get away from the cursing voice of my uncle. It is just like freedom and peace. Now I can go to university and live in a beautiful dorm. God is so amazing."

Ruth studies and serves God diligently. In the past, she taught free classes for children and served at her church. Today she plans to major in biological engineering and hopes to inspire her community with farming technology to raise livestock and produce healthy canned foods. In the future, she hopes these agricultural initiatives will support higher education for children in her community.

Thank you for your generous giving! You are an integral part in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping students like Ruth experience a brighter future!

God Bless You,

April Chiasson

Marketing & Communication

Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation

Ruth teaching other students
Ruth teaching other students
Mealtime
Mealtime
Taking COVID precautions
Taking COVID precautions

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SreyNith, with her mom and a friend
SreyNith, with her mom and a friend

SreyNith knows all about hard work and sacrifice. She has seen her parents model these things, giving their best to create better opportunities for their three daughters.

SreyNith also knows about struggle and failure, as her parents took out loans to finance their small rice farming operation, only to experience disappointment and defeat when things did not work out as planned.

Because of the resulting financial struggle, her parents made the difficult decision to send their daughters to live in a Christian church dormitory in their home province of Prey Veng, while the parents left to go find work in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, which is 3-4 hours by car to the northwest from their home.

Even though she went through her high school years as a so-called “left-behind” child without her parents by her side, SreyNith has grown into a very responsible and capable student. She ranked number 8 of 60 total students in Grade 12, and the pastor at her local church described her as a diligent student and a faithful helper in their church community. She learned discipline and helped to teach the younger children at the dorm.

During this time, SreyNith worried about what would happen after high school graduation. She was very capable and motivated to continue her education in university, but as she considered her family’s situation, she realized her parents would not be able to support her at all. Every month, they needed to spend carefully so they could save enough to pay back the loan payments to the bank.

SreyNith’s commitment was strong, though. She told herself that no matter what happened, she would move to the city to enroll in university, and even if she had to go without food or a place to sleep, she would be ready to tolerate anything to make her dream happen. At the same time, she shared all these burdens with her brothers and sisters at church, and they prayed with SreyNith about God’s plans for her future.

By God’s grace, SreyNith learned about the opportunity to apply for support through the CWEF University Scholarship, made possible by your generous prayers and gifts. She applied and was accepted, and in 2021 SreyNith completed her first year of classes in the Business Management degree program at her university in Phnom Penh.

SreyNith shares:

“To see my parents living in poverty always strengthens my commitment to find a way to pay them back and do everything I can to help them when they are getting older. But I do not want to end up working in a garment factory like my mom. My dream is to hold a pen and not a needle. I want to become a businesswoman in the future.”

When she came to Phnom Penh for university, SreyNith decided to once again live in a Christian dorm. She wants to stay close to God, do what she can to serve the church, and have a good environment for studying. Through the challenges of the COVID pandemic, including outbreaks in Cambodia and mostly online university classes throughout 2021, she has studied hard and has kept herself busy – reading more books and doing additional research for her assignments.

On behalf of the entire CWEF team, thank you! It is our privilege and joy to partner with you to create opportunities for students like SreyNith. Her hope is strong and her future is bright, thanks to you.

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SreyNith, with fellow CWEF University Scholars
SreyNith, with fellow CWEF University Scholars
With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF
With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF
SreyNith at her family home in Prey Veng
SreyNith at her family home in Prey Veng
Visiting her mom's rented room in Phnom Penh
Visiting her mom's rented room in Phnom Penh
With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF
With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF
SreyNith, at church for Christmas
SreyNith, at church for Christmas
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Phanna
Phanna

In 1980, a young man in Cambodia stepped on a landmine laid by Khmer Rouge soldiers while clearing land for farming. He survived, but faced many hardships as a disabled farmer. He married and had four children, one of whom was a boy named Phanna. The family worked hard for a low income, but then sadly faced a terrible tragedy when Phanna’s mother passed away in 2010 from chronic heart disease.

Phanna’s father was not able to care for all four children on his own, so he made the difficult decision in 2011 to bring them to a nonprofit center called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO), where their physical and emotional needs could be met. With this extra support, Phanna was able to develop his natural gifts. He grew into an exceptionally bright and diligent student, and he was a disciplined and helpful member of the CRO community. His English also improved rapidly through his own study and as he practiced with teams of students from other countries who came to visit and serve at CRO.

Phanna continued to work hard throughout high school and eventually graduated in 2017, earning a Grade A on the national exam – a very prestigious accomplishment in Cambodia. That year, nearly 100,000 students took the national exam, and Phanna was one of only 424 students in the entire country who earned an A!

Because of his excellent academic record, Phanna was awarded scholarships from two universities in Cambodia, but they only covered his tuition costs. Because of CRO’s relationship with CWEF, Phanna also learned about the CWEF University Scholarship program. He applied and was approved for additional support from CWEF for not only his living costs, but also for his continued spiritual, mental, and emotional development through regular encouragement and training opportunities with the CWEF team in Cambodia. Your generous support of CWEF made it possible for Phanna to realize his dream of studying International Relations at the University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, the capital city.

But Phanna’s dreams and determination didn’t stop there.

During his first year in Phnom Penh, he began researching scholarships for study abroad programs and started preparing himself to be a strong candidate. The CWEF team encouraged him to apply for scholarship programs that interested him – even if he failed, it would be a great learning experience for him. In the end, Phanna was awarded a 4-year scholarship to study Social Policy and Development at Thammasat University, a prestigious institution in Bangkok, Thailand.

CWEF is thrilled to be able to continue supporting Phanna with scholarship support for living costs, and the CWEF Cambodia team continues to help him with anything he needs, giving him confidence and encouragement to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Phanna recently shared with us that he has never feared living alone in Thailand because he knows that there are people from CWEF who are always there to love, care, support, and pray for him.

Phanna will soon enter his third year at Thammasat University, and it should come as no surprise that he continues to excel. In his second year in the program, he earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. Not only that, Phanna joined a volunteer program at the university that is working to facilitate projects designed to help children in rural communities in Thailand.

In the future, Phanna wants to be a Governance and Policy Specialist and hopes to bring a positive impact to the society in his home country of Cambodia. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for the next season of Phanna’s education and adult life.

Because of your faithful prayers and generosity, Phanna is able to confidently share:

In the future, I will be able to play a critical role to improve people’s living conditions in my country.

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Phanna with fellow CWEF Scholarship students
Phanna with fellow CWEF Scholarship students
At the airport, leaving Cambodia for Thailand
At the airport, leaving Cambodia for Thailand
With fellow students at Thammasat University
With fellow students at Thammasat University
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Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation

Location: Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon - Hong Kong SAR
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Joshua Lange
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Hong Kong SAR
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