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16 year old Theary* is in grade 11 now. She is one of more than 1,100 Cambodian students from poor families that are being supported to attend local public schools here in Sihanoukville through M’Lop Tapang’s “Back to School” program.

When Theary was very young, she and her family lived and worked on the streets.  They had no regular place to live and both parents suffered from chronic illness. By the time she was 9 years old Theary and her younger brother were helping her parents collect tin cans and bottles to sell.

Our teams first met and started working with Theary and her family in 2012, supporting them with emergency supplies and food, medical care, and social support.  As none of the children had ever been to school before, Theary and her little brother were enrolled at our Education Center and progressed through a series of remedial classes designed to help children catch up with their studies.

Theary proved to be a keen and eager student and in 2015 graduated from classes at MT’s Education Center to continue her studies at a local public school.  The “Back to School Program” assists families who cannot afford to send their children to public school. Although public school is officially free for all Cambodian children, families are still required to pay for school uniforms, books and supplies.  For many of the poorest families, like Theary’s family, even these costs prevent them from sending their children for an education.

Not only is Theary excelling in school, she has shown that given the opportunity she has great leadership skills. For the last year she has been active member of our Youth Representatives Group, helping to solve issues between other students and bringing students’ concerns to the management and Board of M’Lop Tapang.

We are all very proud of the hard work Theary has done to achieve what she has so far in her life. She continues to be a shining role model for other children and youth we work with here at M’Lop Tapang.

Before I had no friends because I was very poor but now my family is better than before and I have a lot of good friends.  I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t met M’Lop Tapang.

*name and photo changed for confidentiality