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Get to Know Our Students & Alumni

EYC is a collection of hundreds of talented young people hungry for change.  Here are just a few of their stories.

Student, Artist, Musician, and More: Phearak

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought many challenges, but it has also created opportunities. One example is our English Practice Partners Program (EPP), which provides our students and staff the chance to continue to practice their English virtually with native English speakers when our visitors and volunteers are unable to visit. Meeting weekly via Zoom, they not only practice their English (pronunciation, comprehension, fluency, and confidence) but get to learn about their partner’s life and country, culture, and customs while sharing about their own. As one volunteer shared, “the EPP helps to bring our scattered world together.” The following profile was written by Lisa, one of our US EPP volunteers, about her EYC English Practice Partner,  Phearak. Enjoy! Meet Phearak Phearak is a student, photographer, artist, musician, hiker, son, brother, nephew, grandson, team leader, dreamer & friend. Twenty-year-old Phearak grew up in the countryside and is the eldest of four. He has two brothers and a sister aged 14, 16, and 18. Phearak's parents are farmers, primarily growing rice, but also growing papaya, mango, lemons, bananas, and a few vegetables. The family lives in a one-room house on stilts, like many other Cambodian homes, and all the cooking occurs outside the house. Phearak and…

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A Mother Finds Self-Respect and Stability: Ming Pheap

Meet Ming Pheap Like many who find themselves living in the urban slum communities of Phnom Penh, Ming Pheap left her home in the countryside in the hope of finding better opportunities in the city.  At sixteen, someone she knew promised they could get her a job in Phnom Penh. Sadly, that job was not what she imagined. The dream of finding work in the city turned into a nightmare when it became evident that she had been sex trafficked. Lacking education and a safe way out, Ming Pheap was forced to make her living as a sex worker for close to 12 years. In 2016, her life changed when EYC staff learned about the precarious position of Ming Pheap and her daughter, and she was offered a job as a cleaner at the EYC school her daughter attended.  The job ended up being a lifeline, providing her a degree of much-needed financial stability and security. Her income as a sex worker was very unpredictable, and there were weeks when she didn’t have money for rent or food.  If Ming Pheap were a couple of days late on her rent, her landlord would lock her and her daughter out of…

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Teaching from the Heart: Pheary

Pheary dreamt of becoming an English teacher when she grew up but her high school in the countryside didn’t offer English classes, and there were no opportunities to study English privately. Recognizing that English and computer skills would be critical to Pheary’s future job prospects and her dream of being a teacher, her brother encouraged her to move to Phnom Penh to pursue her schooling. In 2005, after finishing Grade 9, Pheary took her brother’s advice and moved to the city to live with her aunt in the now demolished White Building community. Upon arriving, Pheary met a neighbor who told her of the free English classes offered at EYC’s Aziza school, located on the ground floor of the White Building.  Soon after, Pheary, who was going to high school during the day, found herself each evening in the classroom at Aziza learning English with teacher Rany, who continues to work at EYC to this day. Little did Pheary know at the time that walking into that classroom would open the door to her dream of becoming an English teacher. One of the unique aspects of EYC is the number of former students who go on to become EYC staff…

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A Future That is Sure to Soar: Seyha

Imagine at the age of seven, spending your evenings selling balloons to passersby on the busy streets of Phnom Penh. That is the life Seyha, now 21, led for almost a decade. Working often late into the night to earn $1.25-$1.50 to help support his family, he would then search the rubbish for discarded food to eat. He never imagined one day he would be able to speak English, be a university student, and have a steady job -- let alone travel to numerous countries!    Neither his dad, a moto-driver, nor his mum, a seller, speak English, and they both stopped school in grade six or seven. Twice his family faced eviction due to development. They currently live in a rented room at a pagoda area following the demolition of their last home in the White Building slum community.    Life for Seyha began to change one day in 2011 when he noticed kids gathering outside a room at the White Building. He asked what they were doing. They replied they were waiting for their class at EYC’s Aziza school to start and suggested he come along. Seyha had always wanted to learn English, but his family couldn’t afford…

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Find Your Talent. Create Your Future: Rithy

"Find Your Talent. Create Your Future," EYC's motto, could not ring more true than for the life of a young man named Rithy. In fact, when he first heard it, he wondered if it had been written about him and his EYC experience. Once a troublemaker in school, Rithy is now a tenacious, hardworking, and creative talent. So how did a boy totally uninterested in school and not willing to study become a university student, proficient songwriter, filmmaker, and graphic designer? Rithy grew up in the community at the White Building. He comes from a family of five, and education has always been very important to his parents - his father, a soldier, finished Grade 12, his mother, a housewife, completed Grade 9.  When Rithy was young, however, he wasn’t interested in studying and didn’t feel comfortable at his school, and thus often got into trouble. At age 12, after Rithy got into a fight with a school friend, his mother knew they needed to make a change, and she moved him to Aziza, hoping that would be a better environment for him. Going to Aziza opened up a whole new world to Rithy. He immediately felt at home and was…

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EYC is the Place That Changes You: “Ericka”

When Ericka was about nine-years-old, her father, a goldsmith, was sent to jail. This meant that she and her 11 month-old brother left Phnom Penh to go live with their aunt in the countryside. To help with her aunt's expenses, Ericka had to work washing dishes at a small restaurant. She was also responsible for taking care of her baby brother, and she had to wake up throughout the night to feed him. Because she was exhausted from working and being up at night, she often had a hard time concentrating at school. After living with her aunt for a year, she and her brother moved in with their grandmother for four years (Grades 5-8). When she was in Grade 9 at state school, they returned to Phnom Penh to live with their parents. Thanks to another aunt, whose sons had all participated in programs at EYC, she was encouraged to join as well. EYC is the place that changes you; it makes you stronger and able to learn better. It changes your mindset and the way you think about your life, your future, and other people. Her parents have always been supportive of her education. However, her father was resistant…

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EYC is My Life: Kolboth

20-year-old Kolboth has a long history with EYC.  In fact, it was his family's house near the White Building, that EYC rented to open Aziza.  When Kolboth was six-years-old, he and his brother moved in with his aunt at the White Building and began taking classes at EYC. While Kolboth's family has struggled, his aunt has been a source of stability and strength for him. He credits her with always encouraging him and stressing that education is the key to opportunity. He wants to repay her support by working hard and doing well. EYC has been integral to Kolboth's life over the last 14 years, teaching him skills both inside and outside the classroom and creating an opportunity for him to forge deep connections with the other students from Aziza. Kolboth has taken English and Computer classes, participated in community clean-ups, volunteered in the medical/dental program, worked as an assistant computer teacher, and as a Team Leader in the sports program for soccer. He has also received four scholarships from EYC. The first paid for extra math classes to prepare for the national exam, and the rest have covered expenses related to his first three years at university. Kolboth, who…

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I Love EVERYTHING About EYC: “Daniel”

We would like to introduce you to "Daniel", a young EYC student. Daniel, who is 11 years old, lives with his father, a welder, his mother, a grocery vendor, his seven-year-old brother, and his grandmother.  Their house is close enough to EYC that he can bike on his own to class – something that he is very proud of. Daniel was six-years-old when he started classes at EYC, and although he tends to be quieter at home, he is very active at EYC, participating in class and helping other students when they need assistance. When asked what she thinks of EYC, Daniel’s mother smiles.  She shares how much she appreciates the English teaching Daniel is receiving through EYC, and she hopes that with the skills he is learning he will be able to get a good job. Daniel says he likes EVERYTHING about EYC and wants to participate in EYC for as long as he can!  In addition to English, he studies computer. He used to play football with the EYC team but found he was too tired afterward to do the work he needed to do for school.  His favorite subject in public school is Math, and when he is…

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