In 2005, Keo Thy moved with his pregnant wife and two small children from their hometown in the rural provinces 300 km away to Sihanoukville. They were looking to escape the life of poverty they knew in the countryside and hoped that Sihanoukville could offer Keo Thy a job and a chance at a better future for their family. However, with no formal skills, Keo Thy didn’t find a steady paying job he had hoped to. The family lived in a small 3 x 4-meter hut that they had constructed themselves with a tin roof and walls made out of palm leaves. Their only income came from growing a few vegetables to sell and from occasional fishing.

“It was hard back then. My children were always hungry and somedays we didn’t have food to eat. I remember one time when we had no food and I had to steal potatoes from a farm in the forest to cook for my children. I just needed to find something for them to eat. As a father I felt so bad that I could not take care of my children.”

One night when he was on the streets making a little money as a motorcycle taxi driver (“moto-dop’’) he met a social worker from M’Lop Tapang. The two of them sat down and the worker listened as Keo Thy explained about his situation. Soon after, M’Lop Tapang began providing Keo Thy and his family with food and social support. His children, who had never been to school before, started attending classes at M’Lop Tapang’s Education Center.

In 2010 he saw a job advertised at M’Lop Tapang for a security guard and was successful in securing the position when he applied. Over the next few years he was promoted to various positions. Almost two years ago, noticing the gentle and encouraging way he always interacted with others, M’Lop Tapang’s Outreach Program Manager encouraged Keo Thy to train to be a social worker.

“M’Lop Tapang provided me so much when my family had nothing. We are much better now. My children have finished secondary school now. I am also very proud to be working as a social worker now. It is not something that I ever thought I could do before.”

As one of our Outreach Team’s social workers, Keo Thy meets regularly with local families that are having a hard time financially, especially now when so many are feeling the economic impacts of Covid-19.

“I’m happy to be part of the team that is helping poor families right now. It makes me feel good to help because I know what it is like to live like that; to struggle to find the find food every day to feed your children. I also know that it is not just about giving people food, it is about helping them to make a better life for themselves. People helped me to improve my life and I want to help others now.”