Sem Piseth is known as the joker in his team at CCF, always looking to lighten the mood and make his colleagues laugh.
One-on-one, however, he’s quiet and thoughtful, talking about his early childhood as one of eight children in rural Cambodia. His parents were rice farmers and it was a struggle.
I walked to school 4kms there and back
“It was a very hard life,” says Piseth.
“It was not easy for my parents to raise us and earn money. We lived in a remote area. I walked to school 4kms there and back, every day. We did not always have good food to eat.”
His two older sisters ended their education at high school and aged 16 and 17 moved to Phnom Penh to work in a clothes factory. Whatever they earned, they sent back to the family.
Piseth was lucky. After high school, an aunt arranged for him to attend a theological college in Phnom Penh, where he received a free education and accommodation to study for a degree.
The owners of the college, an American couple, welcomed him into their family and treated him like another son.
“I promised the family that I lived with that in the future I would help poor children, just like they helped me. I will give back,” says Piseth.
He worked with children at another NGO before joining CCF in 2014 in the Sponsorship Department.
His early upbringing gives him a perspective that others don’t have, relatable to many CCF children and their own hardships.
“I understand them because I was the same, I was like them from a poor family,” Piseth says. “That’s why sponsorship is so important for a child. To know that they have someone who cares for them like I had the family who cared for me.”
Piseth knows from his own experience the power of education to change lives.
“I try to encourage the children [at CCF] to keep learning, to keep studying for a good future,” he says.
Compared to my parents, I am in a far better situation now
Life has still given Piseth, 35, his share of challenges.
In 2011, his father, who had his own struggles with alcohol, died aged just 55.
Five years later, his second eldest sister passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. She was the same age he is now and had one child.
Piseth has a family of his own now, dad to two children, and is grateful for the life they have and that he’s able to give them.
“Compared to my parents, I am in a far better situation now. My kids can go to school and whatever they want, they can have. It’s a very different life.”
Piseth is a popular member of CCF’s Sponsorship Team based at the mainoffice in Steung Meanchey, Phnom Penh.
As a Sponsor Relations Coordinator, his responsibilities include overseeing video calls between sponsors and their sponsored CCF child.
He’s also there to support any sponsored child who needs help with a problem or issue.
Piseth is also in charge of the Cambodian end of Storytime, an initiative set up last year by a group of sponsors to read online from around the world to our kindergarten students. You can read more about Storytime here
“I am so happy working here. Other working places are not like here. We are totally different, from top to bottom. CCF is the best,” says Piseth.
When sponsors decide to sponsor a CCF child, they want that child to be a good person in the future
He feels very strongly about giving back.
“When sponsors decide to sponsor a CCF child, they want that child to be a good person in the future, they want to see that the child has a good heart, to share with others when they grow up.
“We always encourage the children. We say when you grow up and you become a better person, you have a good education, so give back. If you get a scholarship to study abroad, when you come back, just help the people around you.
“I am very proud of some of our kids, CCF students, who are now working with us [in Sponsorship]. Before, they were kids but now, they are staff. They are giving back, that is what we want.”