In 1987, Ratha’s family moved to the neighborhood of Toul Sangke. At that time, the neighborhood sat alongside a lake filled with hyacinths, and people in the community would fish the lake and farm the surrounding land. Over time, the lake was filled in to make way for land development. A once fertile area now “grows” condominium projects.
Ratha and six members of his family live in a one-room “house” behind the home of another family in Toul Sangke. Ratha’s father is a moto-taxi driver, while his mother, who is unable to work due to diabetes and lung disease, stays at home. Two of his three older brothers are construction workers, and one is a mechanic.
While it has numerous social issues including drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, theft, and gambling, the community of Toul Sangke is the only home many, including Ratha, have ever known. Unfortunately, the place of development in the area threatens the community’s survival, and the future of its residents remains uncertain. Rather than being at the mercy of these external forces, however, Ratha is better able to direct his future thanks to the educational and extracurricular opportunities offered by EYC.
When he was 16 years old, Ratha’s mother brought home a flyer announcing that a school (EYC’s Youth School) had opened where local children could study English for free. Since he had never studied English before, Ratha was very nervous to attend EYC at first. Thankfully he did.
For Ratha, EYC has been life-changing. Not only did he receive free English and Computer training, but EYC also provided him with opportunities for self-development, confidence building, and the chance to continue his education – something that was not an option before. Ratha was very active as a student at EYC and became a Team Leader in EYC’s volunteer program as well as a volunteer computer teacher. As an alumnus, his commitment to EYC continues with his desire to share his knowledge and experience with the next generation of EYC students.
Currently, Ratha studies visual communications (design) at Phnom Penh International Institute of the Arts, one of the best private art schools in Phnom Penh. Because he did so well in his entrance exam, Ratha receives a 70% scholarship from the school. In addition, he receives a partial scholarship from EYC.
Ratha works hard. He goes to school all day, and in the evening he works as a cleaner from 7-11pm. On the weekends he catches up on his studies and plays on the EYC Frisbee Team.
Ratha’s background is similar to that of so many of the young people in the slum communities of Phnom Penh. What makes his story and his future different is the flyer his mother brought home for free English classes. From educational classes to sports to leadership development, the opportunities provided by EYC have helped Ratha change the trajectory of his life. His future will not be determined by the circumstances of his birth but by his desire, drive, and determination.