As a child, Sam Huoy was given the opportunity of an education by a local organization working to give children in Cambodia a better life, just like the Cambodian Children’s Fund.
As an adult, the experience was her motivation to go into teaching and give children the same life-changing opportunities.
Huoy, 23, is working at Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) to help shape young minds with primary age students who come from some of the most disadvantaged communities in Cambodia.
I understand how they feel because I was there when I was young
Huoy knows better than most the transformative power of education and wants other young Cambodians to benefit from a quality schooling too.
“I used to live in an organization [like CCF} as well, so my job, what I’m doing right now, is one of the dream jobs on my bucket list since I was growing it,” says Huoy.
“I always wanted to give back to the community because I grew up in the same situation, not as bad as these kids, but I understand how they feel because I was there when I was young.”
She became an English teacher at CCF last year. After only six months, she was promoted to School Academic Coordinator. As part of her new responsibilities, she designs curriculum and implements it through teachers and teaching herself. She teaches Grade 1 students aged up to 8 years old.
Eight is the same age Huoy was when her parents sent her from their home in rural Cambodia to Phnom Penh for a better education. She joined a small local NGO with two of her five brothers.
“It was really hard for my parents to let us go,” says Huoy. “But my parents only had a little education, so they didn’t want us, as the new generation, to also be uneducated.”
During every school holiday, she would return home to visit her parents, who worked as farmers. Huoy would assist her family by selling vegetables and fish to make extra money.
Huoy was a good student and did well at school.
“I’m the kind of person who is very competitive and I just wanted to do really well,” she says. “People helped me a lot and I didn’t want to disappoint them. You just give back and do well, that’s my motivation in life. If I help you, just do well to give back.”
At 14, Huoy experienced her first taste of teaching when she attended public school and was assigned to assist at another school during school vacation.
“My first time in class, all these little kids were listening to me and looking so intently. I always admired my teachers so much, and I never imagined that one day I would stand in front of students and they would look at you with the same eyes, and that inspired me to continue teaching.”
She later got a scholarship to university, where she is studying English Literature. She got her first job when she was 17, teaching part-time, to pay for her living expenses.
“I only earned $50 a month but that was so much for me.”
Those kids' hugs and their smiles are so genuine, and it gives me power power
Her role means she’s creating the curriculum but keeps her hand in teaching as well.
“I write units [lesson plans] for Grade 1 and teach as well. We do project-based learning so I need to understand the students as well in order for the curriculum to meet their needs,” she says.
“We have a daily meeting where the teachers give feedback on whether the unit worked for the students or not. The teachers give ideas for the unit too, what to change. So, it's a collaborative process. If we want the curriculum to be effective that’s how we have to work.”
She still loves the teaching part too.
“I love kids, I really do,” says Huoy. “Going into the classroom with all the hugs and kids saying ‘hello teacher’ is such a nice feeling. Those kids' hugs and their smiles are so genuine, and it gives me more power.”
Huoy is intelligent, articulate and very personable. It’s clear that she’s going to go far in her chosen profession.
She’s in her final term at university, spending a full day at CCF before heading to lectures.
Huoy’s background gives her an understanding of the unique needs of CCF children.
“If it was not for the organization that helped, I would not be where I am now. I am forever grateful. So I understand what it means for kids to have CCF,” she says.
Her brothers have done well too - one is a chef living in Germany and the other is a vet in Prey Vihear, the province where they all grew up. The other three are all in Cambodia, two living on land near their parents.
“My mum and dad are really proud of us. We would not be where we are now if it were not for our parents,” says Huoy.
“Back then, the norm for parents in the province was that they would never want kids to study, they wanted them to grow up, go and earn money and give money to them, and then get married off. For our parents to sacrifice their kids at such a young age, to let them go to the city to get an education for a better life, is incredible.”
I am really thankful for what CCF does for Cambodian kids.
As for the future, Huoy would like to travel more.
“I only traveled for the first time in June on a plane to Thailand. I liked the take-off, it was incredible. When I saw the sky, it made me so emotional, I almost cried. had only seen it on video, but when you get to see it with your own eyes, you are like ‘so this is what heaven looks like’. It was an unforgettable experience.”
She would also like to continue her education with a Master’s, possibly on an overseas scholarship, and wants to have her own family one day.
For now, she’s just focusing on her job with CCF empowering the next generation to follow in her footsteps and reach for their own dreams.
“I am really thankful for what CCF does for Cambodian kids. If it were not for the organization so many kids would just go onto wrong paths and not know what education is.”