Moving into her own place has been a big moment for Sophy.
She’s just taken her first steps toward independence, having been with Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) since she was seven.
Back then, Sophy was a shy little girl who had never been to school and spent her days helping her mum sell secondhand shoes on the side of the road.
Now 22, she’s in her second year at university and has recently made the milestone decision that every young adult eventually takes as they begin to find their place in the world. Sophy has recently left home and moved in with her older sister, Bopha.
I’m very happy, I can be independent now and look after myself
For Sophy, the step is hugely significant.
It marks her transition from a girl with no hope or future into a young woman capable of standing on her own two feet and making her own decisions.
Becoming self-sufficient and on the path to a successful life is the best possible outcome for CCF students who have overcome the challenges of growing up in one of the most impoverished parts of Cambodia.
Without CCF, many like Sophy would never have had the chance to even attend school.
Giving them a quality education is the foundation to a better future, and leadership skills develop well-rounded individuals with the confidence to forge their own paths.
“I’m very happy, I can be independent now and look after myself,” says Sophy.
“Without CCF, my life would be on the dumpsite. I would be a scavenger. Luckily, I could finish high school and go to university, and now I have a good life.”
It's a very good opportunity for us to form a bond
CCF will continue supporting Sophy while she’s at university, in the second year of a Human Resources Management degree, covering course fees, study materials and transportation.
Sophy’s new home, a rental room, is near where she used to live, the Girls To Grannies Village, CCF’s female-only community. It’s a big change, but she has the reassurance of big sister Bopha for sibling support.
The sisters will pay their own rent, another step towards independence, learning about money management and budgeting, vital life skills to master.
Sophy has a full-time job at a dental clinic, attending university classes in the evening.
‘When I was a kid, we didn’t have a chance to spend much time together, so now it's a very good opportunity for us to form a bond,” says Sophy, on living with her sister.
Sophy’s mother had fled their homeland in the countryside to escape a violent marriage. Like many jobless families migrating to Phnom Penh, they ended up in the destitute area around the former dumpsite where CCF works.
When Sophy’s mother remarried after a year and had another child, a son, life continued to be tough. The family was barely surviving.
“My life then was terrible,” says Sophy. “We were very poor. My parents sold second-hand shoes and sometimes they sold very well and sometimes, there were no customers so no money. They could not pay for school fees. I wasn’t studying. I helped my mum sell shoes.”
CCF was a lifeline for the family.
Sophy and her sister started school, and the family’s situation improved with support.
“After joining CCF, I felt very good. I had lots of friends, food and everyone took care of me very well. I was so happy,” says Sophy.
Sadly Sophy’s mum did not see her youngest daughter’s greatest achievement, getting into university. She died in 2018 from a chronic illness.
Sophy sees her stepdad at weekends, now in his 70s, and her brother Phearon, 12, who lives with him and is in Grade 5 at a CCF school,
Her ambition is to be a manager at a private company and have her own family one day.
“Comparing my life now and to the past, it’s so different,” she says.
“I have an education and a good future. When I get married, I can treat my children well and send them to school.”