Soun Chanthy (15) is one of the best students in her class. She likes going to school in her village in Cambodia, but just from looking at her happy face you can't tell how many obstacles the girl had to overcome to get this far.

 

Child labour

When Terre des Hommes partner organisation Cambodian Organisation for Children and Development (COCD) met Chanthy's family for the first time, they were having a very hard time. Her father had left for Thailand as he could earn more money for the family there. And her mother slaved away in the fields so Chanthy and her three brothers and sisters would have something to eat.

No time or money to go to school

Chanthy used to help out with household chores from early in the morning until late at night. Chanthy used to cook for the family and took care of her younger brothers and sisters. In addition to this, she also had to work at a cassava plantation to earn extra income for the family. She hardly ever went to school. Not only could Chanthy spare the time, but her parents also did not have money to send both her and her sibblings to school. Sometimes there wasn't even any money for food.

Old enough to work

Terre des Hommes partner COCD intervened when they understood that Chanthy was the victim of child labour and hardly ever got to go to school. "We saw Chanthy working in the fields with her mother or in the household more often than that she was at school. We knew of the family's situation and we knew they needed support", one of COCD's staff members said. When the situation was assessed, interviews with her teachers proved that Chanthy is a clever girl that likes to study, but that her mother would rather not have her in the classroom. The family desperately needed the income that Chanthy earned and the girl was old enough to work.

Scholarship

Chanthy's mother came round after a number of information meetings about the dangers of child labour. She also learned about the chances for a better future through education. Moreover, Chanthy's parents received agricultural training and financial support to start their own business, allowing them to earn more money for the family. Chanthy was granted a scholarship and now goes to school every day. She still helps her mother, but no more than four days a month when she doesn't have to go to school. Despite her tough home situation, Chanthy now is one of the top students in her class.

A happy and proud mum

Chanthy: "Before, I always had to go with my mother to the fields to help, which is why I only studied a bit during the evenings. But by then I was very tired. I missed many classes at school and I was worried about that. I am glad my mother now understands that it's better for me to go to school. And I can still help out at home on Sundays and during the mornings. I like to go to school and I want to become a teacher in our village. That is possible with a proper education and then I will earn enough to help my family."

Chanthy's mother is happy that she can help her daughter to stay in school now and she is very proud of her being such a good student.

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