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Cambodia: From bricks to beautician

So Sok Heng puts makeup on her customer’s face.
©2011 Vichheka Sok/World Vision

From World Vision, by Vichheka Sok:

Editor’s Note: So Sok Heng quit school at 13 and worked to support her family and repay her mother’s debt. Today, she shares how her life is different.

My name is So Sok Heng, 22. My mother’s name is Om Srey. She is a vegetable seller. My father died in a car crash when I was a young kid, and I can’t remember his face.

When I was 13 years old, I decided to stop studying in Grade 7 to work in the brick factory to earn a little money for the family. I carried raw bricks into the kiln, prepared bricks, and grinded soil. I earned only [63 cents] per day.

[At 14] I decided to go… to work as fish-head cutter. I earned [$5] per day (when there were fish to cut). I sent money every month to my mother … It’s hard work, but I must work because I was thinking of my family.

I decided to change the job from fish-head cutter, to work as a housekeeper because being a housekeeper, it is more safe, and it is not far from home. I earned [$15] a month. I could visit my family and get a salary every month. All money I [used to help] my mother to repay the debt.

When I was 17 years old, I returned to work in the brick factory, so I could stay with my family and take care of my younger siblings.

Once, there was World Vision staff who visited all children at the brick factory. The staff, named Sambo, asked about my dreams. I replied to him that I wanted to be a hairdresser because it’s much easier than working in the brick factory.

I dreamed of being able to earn more for my family and to support my younger siblings to go to school for a better future.

I studied at the drop-in center for three months. I [learned] how to read and write.

I was so happy when World Vision supported me to go to study as a hairdresser for six months. They have given me a new environment and life.

I was able to open a hairdresser shop. I was so worried about the opening of the new shop since there were not any customers. I didn’t earn anything for the first few months.

I wanted to quit the hairdressing shop. However, World Vision staff encouraged me emotionally and pushed me to struggle hard in life.

I now [earn] more ($150 a month) and I can support my younger siblings to go to school. I keep sharing my life’s struggle to every customer who comes to my hairdressing shop. I share with them about the value of education and skills.

I teach other girls from the poor families and girls who work in the brick factory to do hairdressing for free of charge because I understand how hard life working in the brick factory is.

There are also [girls] who just come and ask me about my story at my hairdressing shop. I am open to share my story because I hope it would be a lesson for others.

Now, I have a dream of operating a big hairdressing shop and would love to help those who want to learn from me. I wish I could help save the girls and children in the brick factory and those who live in the poor family.

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