Getting up at the break of dawn. Cycling 5 kilometres on an old bicycle on rugged roads. Harvesting sugar beets, maize and cassava all day long without shelter from the sun, and then cycling home again. This is what an ordanary day looked like for twelve year old Beng' when she joined her parents to work in the fields. But her life has changed. Now she cycles to school with carrying textbooks under her arm every morning.
Nheb Beng is 12 years old and lives with her family in a small cottage in the Cambodian village of Tades. Her family is very poor and they don't even own a rice paddy. This is why her parents used to work as seasonal workers for other farmers. Forced by poverty, Beng and her brothers and sisters often also had to join in to make sure the family had enough income to buy food. Beng used to join her parents to work in the fields or did other jobs in the village. When she wasn't working, she would baby-sit her little brother at home. Often, the whole family also worked during the weekends.
Beng and her little brother hardly ever went to school anymore and because of the hard working and lack of food, they looked skinny and neglected. The Cambodian Organisation for Children and Development (COCD), a Terre des Hommes partner organisation, rescued Beng from her desperate situation. With a scholarship, learning materials and a school uniform, Beng could finally go to school. Her family not only received food support, but was also advised about the hazards of child labour. Moreover, Beng's parents received agricultural training. By helping the parents to enhance their income, COCD makes sure children like Beng can stay in school rather than work this much.
Beng looks much better now and is happy: "I enjoy going to school. Now I can concentrate in class, because I don't have to work anymore." Her family also is doing much better. They have some livestock now and they grow vegetables, which earns them some extra income. Beng's mother: "Our lives are much better now. Thanks to the chickens, ducks and pigs we earn more money. The vegetable garden behind our house also earns us extra income."
Ros Savy, COCD staff member, says the livestock and the vegetable garden have completely changed the life of the family. Thanks to the extra income Beng and her brother can go to school, but she says the family stays vulnerable: "When income falls short, we must make sure that Beng and her brother remain in school and don't have to work as child labourers in the fields again. If it's up to Beng, all will be fine. She is determined to finish primary school and earn good grades. She is dreaming of a career as a teacher, so she can teach the children in her village.