Thmor Sor, Takeo Province, May 2019 – Thmor Sor, “white stone”, is the name of a small village and its lower secondary school in Lum Pong commune, Takeo province. Except for a few people driving their motorbikes to run errands and cows occasionally crossing the street, life seems quite here without many possibilities. But looks are deceiving.
Two extraordinary students are on their way to change not only their own lives, but also their communities for the better. 16-year-old Run Narin and 17-year-old Sin Phanith have one thing in common – determination. When their school director added local life skills like chicken raising, vegetable gardening and broom making to the curriculum, both students saw an opportunity to take their newly learned skills and apply them outside the classroom.
Originally, Narin’s parents, like many parents in Cambodia, already had mapped out his future. After finishing school, he was supposed to become a nurse. But once Narin was introduced to vegetable gardening and chicken raising, he was determined to go against his families wishes and become an organic farmer. “In the beginning, my parents were not happy with my decision, but eventually they came around because they saw how good I was at it.”
Narin started out with raising only a handful of chicken and growing some vegetables. “I just applied everything the local expert told me and watched some additional YouTube videos on how to build a green house.” After two weeks, his chickens were healthy and big, so he gave them to his mother who sold them to the local zoo she works at.
A lot has happened since that day. Over time, Narin managed to build a reputation for himself because of the good quality of his chickens. Today, even the community chief has become a regular customer. But Narin is not the only student who benefited from the local life skill project.
Phanith, who goes to grade 9 at Thmor Sor and loves Khmer literature, shared her knowledge about chicken raising with her family and community. Why?
“Because it felt good to be able to help people with my tips. When I saw some even started to sell them, I felt very proud because it was my way to give back to my community.”
The young girl has big dreams for her future. “I want to finish grade 12 and then become a nurse to help my family with my income and take care of them, when they get old.” To reach her goal, Phanith studies hard. “I’m not that good in mathematics, but together with my friends we founded a study group to support each other,” she explains.
Since 2016, students at Thmor Sor lower secondary school spend between one and two hours every week to learn a life skill from a local expert who visits the school. The project, with funding from SIDA and support from UNICEF, is implemented through the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youths. Its goal is to empower schools and communities to pass on specialized local skills for students to learn. On top of that, they also develop transferable skills and personal qualities such as problem solving, critical thinking, honesty and empathy. All of which are vital for children’s personal growth.
“For us, learning about chicken raising and broom making was a great source of inspiration and gave us the confidence and skills to start our own business and help our community at the same time”, Narim concluded.