Hel Bunnara is a long serving member of the CCF family with 11 years on staff. Part of the Sponsorship Team, he’s now got a family of his own and hopes to be a role model for his son.
There are two pivotal moments in Hel Bunnara’s life: joining CCF and becoming a father.
Both were watershed moments that have shaped him and continue to be his inspiration and driving force, personally and professionally.
I believe in helping people
Nara - as he is known - joined CCF on staff back in 2010,, although he first became involved as a volunteer two years earlier. He became a father for the first time six years ago with the birth of his son, Ann Sobun.
“I believe in helping people,” says Nara, of his continued love of working for CCF. “If we don’t help, we cannot go further but if we can help the people, I think we can go together.”
As for his little boy, he hopes that his son will follow in his dad’s footsteps by going to university and then find his own passion in life.
“My son likes fixing things, like me, so I think he would be a good engineer,” says Nara.
Nara, 34, realised from a young age that education would be his passport to a better life and a promising future - a belief he shares with CCF.
Growing up in Phnom Penh, one of six siblings, Nara had to combine schooling with chores and helping his mother earn an income.
“My brothers and sisters and I studied a lot and when we were free, we helped our mother,” he says.
“She sold food, porridge and rice with pork and Cambodian rice cake.
We had to help her earn money to support the family.”
I really understood the importance of education because only education can help me and my family to be better
While the family were better off than many, life was not easy.
“I had to get up at 6am and get water. In Phnom Penh back then, we didn't have running water, we had to use a well, and sometimes we had to carry the water from far away,” says Nara.
“My father worked for the government, the Ministry of Infrastructure, building roads and streets. He was travelling a lot, so my siblings and I stayed with our mother, to help her.
“I didn’t like school a lot but I really understood the importance of education because only education can help me and my family to be better because we are not rich in Phnom Penh, so the only thing that can help is education.
“I can say that I was not an outstanding student but I studied hard. It is not easy for me, but I always try my best.”
The hard work paid off. Nara made it to university majoring in Accounting.
During this time, he volunteered to work at CCF as an administrator, covering a staff member’s maternity leave. He enjoyed it so much that two years later, in 2010, he applied for a full-time job as a Sponsor Relations Officer, facilitating the relationship between a sponsor and their CCF child.
He would work during the day and study in the evenings, graduating in 2012.
After five years, Nara was promoted to a supervisor and was upgraded to a Senior Sponsor Relations Supervisor three years ago.
He now oversees a team of 14, based at CCF’s community centre in the heart of Steung Meanchey, one of the most impoverished areas in Phnom Penh.
I have seen a lot of changes in this time. I can witness how CCF has grown.
After more than a decade with CCF - 11 years and counting - Nara is just as passionate about his job and the organization. He has developed and grown as CCF has; back when he first volunteered in 2008, CCF was still in its infancy and expanding fast.
“I have seen a lot of changes in this time,” says Nara. “I can witness how CCF has grown.
“Before we had only two people working together in my team, but now we have 14 members.
“When I started at CCF, we did not have kids at university. Now we have more than a hundred who have studied at university, graduated and have their own jobs.
“When I first saw a [CCF] satellite school, it had a tin roof and no more. Now I can see proper buildings where kids can access computers.”
COVID-19 has meant Nara and the team have had to adapt to a new way of working, using new technology such as Zoom and switching between the office and home, where electricity and internet connection in Cambodia can be unstable.
It’s been a challenge and Nara says it can be hard working from home with a lively six-year-old around - something parents around the world will relate to.
Nara admits it was an adjustment at first becoming a dad. His own father died three months after he first started working for CCF.
“When I become a father, I have to be more responsible,” he says.
“Sometimes, I miss my father. When I see hardship, I think of him.”
Nara looks after his mother, 66, who lives with him, his wife and son, and his younger brother.
I want to make a difference, to be part of something making things better.
Outside work Nara, who describes himself as shy, enjoys cycling but often can be found at home.
“I can stay in my home the whole day without going out. It’s just the way I am.
“When I was young, I didn’t have the time to go out with friends, I had to help my mum. So it is my habit to stay home.”
As for the future, he has ambitions to become a manager at CCF and says he enjoys helping people grow.
“The reason that I keep working here is that I like it,” he says. “I want to make a difference, to be part of something making things better.”