Investing in children to build brighter futures: Srei Ros’ story
Srei Ros is 17 years old and comes from a family of farmers. She lives in Kor Commune in Tboung Khmum province with her parents and five siblings: two sisters and three brothers. Her father works in the rice fields, while her mother cooks and sells Ansorm Ang, Cambodian rice cakes. Providing for such a big family is not easy and they often struggled to make ends meet.
Srei Ros’ daily routine used to be tiring, making studying difficult. She would wake up early to help her mother cook Ansorm Ang, before getting ready to attend school. As soon as she came home from school, she would help her mother with house chores. Her mother would then tend to their cows. It was only at that point in the day that Srei Ros managed to find some time to study.
When the workers from Save the Children and local NGO Buddhism for Social Development Action (BSDA) first came to her village to implement their child right governance project, Srei Ros wanted nothing to do with them. The aim of the project, funded by the European Union, was to create a youth network to strengthen children’s participation in their community. But she was scared and did not trust that the project would actually be beneficial to children. Eventually her teachers pushed her to attend one of the meetings. “I was trained and realised that the project is amazing. I then thought that I might learn a lot and gain experience from the project, so that I can help develop children in the village and in our society. It made me more interested in participating in the project,” she recalled. She then went on to become the leader of the Children’s Club, created by the Commune Council for Women and Children and facilitated by BSDA with the support of Save the Children.
When asked what she has learned through the project, she enthusiastically organises her newly acquired skills into categories. Firstly, public speaking and communication: “Previously, I didn’t know how to speak with the commune chief. I was very shy. […] After participating in the project, I can speak, I dare to speak.” Second, experience: “The experiences I gained from the project have trained me a lot. I have received a lot of trainings from the Children’s Clubs: how to mobilize children, problem solving skills, and time management skills.” Third, participation: “I have participated with the village chief, commune chief and participated in various meetings so I feel like I am more active.” Fourth, report writing: “I know how to write reports from Children’s Club meetings. Before, during and after meetings, I can report on children’s issues, which I can submit to the commune.” All of the skills that Srei Ros gained through her engagement and leadership in the Children’s Club continue to be useful and relevant in her life. “I can use my experiences from the Children’s Club and apply it to my studies and internship at the university,” she explained.
Srei Ros is currently studying Public Administration at the Cambodian University for Specialties in neighbouring Kampong Cham province. Her brother, who left the family home in 2014, now runs his own business and sends money home. Both him and Srei Ros have managed to lift a heavy burden off of their family’s back. And even though Srei Ros’s mother continues to sell her rice cakes to support her daughter’s education, she knows life can only brighter if she invests in her daughter’s future.
Srei Ros happily describes how she has changed, and hearing her talk it is easy to see the value of building children’s capacities. With the right support, children are capable of being important and equal members of society.
Srei Ros’ new skills not only benefit her and her whole family but also the other children in her community: “My dream about my village is to see children help children, have solidarity and no discrimination against one another.” She continued, “I would like to suggest that the village chief, commune chief and school directors and other relevant stakeholders continue working on this project. Although the project has no [further] funding, we have the ability to help each other so that our village experiences positive changes and development.”