“This life I have no hope. Next life, I would like to be a doctor.”Rin Sokun, age 13
This Life Cambodia (TLC) started in December 2007 while I was working for a large charity in Siem Reap. I was approached by members of a community who had big dreams of starting a community centre in their village. I told them to come back to me when they had something to show. And so they did. The community had built two thatch classrooms and had 200 students enrolled to study extracurricular activities. Impressed by their initiative my initial thought was to write a project proposal to seek funding for further development.
At the same time I had a chance conversation with a local boy I’d known for some time. I’d assumed that he was attending school, but when I asked him what he wanted to be when he was older, he replied: “Next life I would like to be a doctor”. When I asked why he couldn’t be a doctor in this life, he said: “This life, I have no hope. I had to drop out of school two years ago in grade six.”
He went on to explain that his family was so poor they couldn’t afford to support his education and, in fact, they couldn’t even provide him with food and shelter. He had felt obliged to move away and live in a pagoda so that his family had one less mouth to feed. He also thought he would get some education from the monks. I couldn’t let go of the fact that this boy, who clearly had huge potential, might never get the opportunity to finish his education.
It was becoming apparent to me that communities and small grassroots organisations needed more than just a project proposal. There was a huge need for capacity building and training and there were no organisations in Siem Reap doing this. I decided that I would try and help this child and others in similar situations to get an education and fulfill their dreams.
Today, TLC has grown rapidly into an award winning well-respected community development NGO with eight programs in three provinces (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey) which receives funding from individual donors, corporate funders, private foundations, and international development agencies.
Local communities are the experts when it comes to identifying practical ways to achieve improvements in their daily lives, and many hold an abundance of ideas for a better Cambodia. Working side by side with community residents, listening to their insights and acting on their input, we have developed a sustainable, empowering and replicable approach to development that works!