I was born in Prey Veng Province in 1986. My father left my Mum before I was born and I have never met him. When my mum was pregnant with me, she tried many times to abort, because it is not acceptable for single Khmer women to have a child. I guess I was strong even as a baby, because even after 5 or 6 tries, I would not go away.
My mother and I were too poor when I was young, I have always worked, even when I was a small child. I used to sell small cakes to my friends in my village. I only studied until grade 2, but I have always learning.
When I was about 12 my mum found a new husband and she moved to another province to be with him. I wanted to go with her so much but she said the house was too small, so I stayed alone in my village, with no one to care for me. I lived that way for 6 months, and I cried every night because I have always hated being alone. Now that I am older, I know how lucky I was that nothing happened to me in that time. After 6 months, my mum finally allowed me to come to her husband’s house. He had a lot of other children and the house really was small. They other children looked down on me because I had no father. Nobody wanted me to be there so I left and stayed with my aunt and uncle.
Even though nobody cared for me at my mother’s new house, I still missed her a lot. I used to sell waffles when I lived with my aunt and uncle, so I saved every day for a year and after one year I had $10, which was enough to go to visit my mum again. Even though the other people in that house were nasty to me I wanted to be with my mum. We both used to work everyday selling cakes and our money went to pay for school for the other kids. I was never allowed to go back to school, but I worked to pay for my stepfather’s children. That man was not a good man, he drank a lot and was violent. Usually he wouldn’t hurt his own children, instead my mum and I were always the victims.
My mother got really sick when I was about 14, she loaned a lot of money to pay for her medical bills and got into a lot of debt. I moved to Phnom Penh to become a maid to pay off my mothers debt. Sometimes even bad things can lead to good things, because the lady I worked for was a lovely lady and became a really special person for me. She cared for me a lot and gave me many opportunities. She allowed me to study again, but not at public school, I went to an English school and I did an apprenticeship as a hairdresser. I spent every bit of money I had on studying and paying for my mum, but I wanted to make something of myself, so I never had the same life as my mum. I wanted to become a hairdresser.
I started at ONE when it first opened in 2012, and I got my dream, I was a hairdresser, and soon I became a manager too. I love to work with all of the girls at ONE, some times I feel like a mum to them. I never thought about marrying anyone because of my mother’s experience, but I met a good man at ONE. He was a customer and he came many times to cut his hair until he had no more hair to cut so he asked me to go on a date. Now we are happily married. No matter what the bad things that happened to me, I know my life is good now because I tried so hard to learn and make opportunities for myself. I will teach my children that we cannot complain about bad things, just try hard to change them to be good things.
I was born in 1995 in Kampong Thom, I have 6 siblings and I am the youngest in the family. I stopped school in grade 7 because grade 8 is too difficult too study. The teacher takes a lot more money from the students and makes them come 7 days a week.
When I was 17 I worked in a factory in Phnom Penh for about 7 months, but I left because I didn’t know how to use the sewing machines very well. My salary there was only $61 a month. After I left, I went home to be a rubbish collector. My job was to find rubbish on the ground and sell it. I could find about $40 a month doing that work.
I worked in some other factories near my home but I never found a place that was a good job for me. One day I heard that ONE was looking for new students so I went with my friend Rin to apply. We both got the job and we have been at ONE since then.
ONE is a nice place to work, nobody yells at us or hits us. I am especially happy to come here because I have made new friends. Compared to my other jobs, this is the best because we don’t have to work as hard and also I can study English and a lot of skills in the salon. Now I am a masseuse, but I want to learn more. In the future I would like to learn about hair-dressing and make-up, I hope ONE can help me to learn.
I was born in Kampong Thom in 1996. My father contracted HIV after I was born and passed it to my mother, so my younger sister has HIV but my younger brother who was born after was very lucky and did not get it. Both of them are studying in school and I hope they will stay until they finish.
I stopped school in 7th grade when I was 17. Before I stopped I used to work part time to pay for my classes, but grade 8 was too difficult to work part time because the teacher asks for a lot of money and we need to go to school for the whole day.
So my mum tried to take me to work in the wood factory, but I also heard about ONE from the people in my village so I decided to try to see if it was good. My mum didn’t want me to go but I preferred to work in a nice place instead of a factory. I started at ONE in 2013.
My parents are very sick with HIV now, they need medication everyday but they drink a lot so they are getting more and more sick. I am lucky that I have a better life than them.
At first when I came to work at ONE I wanted to go home, because I missed my family, but now I really want to stay and learn more skills and practice English and Hair dressing. I feel a lot happier at ONE because life is better and I feel smarter and stronger.
I was born in 1993 in Kampong Thom, I am the 2nd oldest of 6 children in my family.
When I was 9 years old my family lived in Thailand as my parents were working on a farm there. My job was to babysit all the children there, I used to earn $5 per month. We lived there for 2 years and then moved back to Cambodia when I was 11.
When we got back to Cambodia, I started school for the first time. I entered grade 1 at 11 years old. In the second grade my family didn’t have enough money to support me so they pulled me out of school and sent me to work on a farm. It was in the same province as my home, but very far from my village.
When I was 17 I applied to a company for a job in Malaysia, and soon after I went there to work. I stayed there for 2 years, cleaning houses and cooking. It was one of the hardest things in my whole life. I started work at 5am every morning and worked all day until midnight and never got a break. Sometimes they would have a party in the house, so I had to work until 1 or 2am, but still wake up at 5am the next day. Working there was very difficult; I don’t think anyone should try that job. After 2 years I was able to come back and I had earned $3500 for the whole time.
After I came back to Cambodia my mother asked the people at CKF if I could work at ONE.
I was born in Kandal province in 1995, I work in ONE with my younger sister Somaly. I stopped school after Grade 7 and left home to work. My first job after school, when I was 14, was washing cars at a place in Phnom Penh, I worked that job for around 7 months and then moved to Prey Veng to work in a restaurant.
I didn’t see my family very much during this time so I looked for some work closer to my home. I found a job at a garment factory in Phnom Penh. Working in the factories can be good money, but it is not a fun job, we must work very fast and the bosses are very nasty. I stopped this job after a few months and went home, at that time someone in my village introduced me to CKF.
Growing up was very difficult for me. My family was poor and there was a lot of children. I had to stop school because we didn’t have enough money, but a lot of the time there was not enough money for food either. But after I left home, things were not any easier. For example, when I worked in Prey Veng I worked from 5am – 9pm every day, but my salary was only $37.50 per month. Even at the factory, I could earn $60, but after paying bills and rent there was nothing left. My friends and I at the factory often didn’t eat properly.
I have been at ONE since 2013 and I am very happy to be here. I have learned many skills, including nail art and massage. Now I am a massage teacher and I teach the new students that come to work at ONE. I’m also learning English. I especially love the people here, all the girls at ONE are my friends, and I feel like it is one family. Working at ONE is great because I have enough food everyday, which makes me healthier and happier.
My name is Srey Lux, or as some people know me, Somaly. I was born in Kandal Province in 1998, both of my parents are farmers. When I was in third grade my father got very sick. He became violent and angry, he would throw all of our things out of the house and wouldn’t let any body come near him. So we had to leave our house and stay with our neighbours, but it wasn’t easy to live in another families house, so me and my sister went to live with our aunt to make it easier for the family.
My sister left there after a few months but I stayed for two years. When I lived with my aunt she taught me about cooking and housework. She was nice to me, but she had a wife that was not. My aunt’s wife got drunk a lot and used to yell and scream at me. When I worked there I was only 9 years old, but I had to get up at 5am to do some farming, then come back to clean the house and then go to school. My aunt would pay me 100 – 200R each day (2 - 5 cents) and sometimes if she was really happy with me she would give me 500R (12.5 cents). My real aunt was nice to me but her wife was not.
When I was 10 I went back to live with my mum because my father was better. I kept going to school but would find a job every holidays. When I was 11 I worked in café and at 13 I worked in a garage. When I was 13 I worked in a restaurant and at 14 I worked on a rubber farm.
When I was 15, my sister told me about ONE because she was already working here. ONE was really good for me because I can work there half a day and they pay for me to study at school, also they helped me to learn English and massage. Now I am the receptionist at ONE and I like my job so much. Now I am in grade 11, I really want to finish year 12, I will be the first person in my family to graduate high school!
ONE is completely different from everywhere else that I have worked. The other places never gave breaks or a good salary like ONE. I feel very lucky to be able to come to work here. I have learned a lot and made friends and I have had so many opportunities after coming here.