“When I grow up I want to be a teacher, so that I can help poor children like me,” says 14-year-old Sroem.

She lives in Cambodia with her grandmother, So Bunne.

Sroem’s parents divorced when she was young. Thereafter, she lived with her mother and stepfather. When Sroem was six years old, her mother contracted a serious illness but did not have any money for treatment. Doctors refused to treat her and sent her home. A few days later, she passed away. In the same year, her stepfather died of hunger. Sroem’s world was turned upside down – she became an orphan.

Since then, Sroem’s grandmother has taken care of her even though they are very poor and have hardly anything to eat. They live in a simple house with Sroem’s nephews and grandfather. Sroem, despite her youth, has taken on the responsibilities of cooking for the family, washing laundry and cleaning the house.

Fortunately Phearun, a social worker at a Freedom Challenge-supported project in Cambodia (Mercy Teams International), got to know the family. “Although the family were in a desperate situation, the grandmother was committed to sending Sroem to school,” says Phearun. “Against all odds, she managed to send her granddaughter to school but did not have enough money for school uniform, textbooks and even food.”

“I know that getting an education is very important to Sroem,” says So Bunne. “Although we lack money, we can eat less. But Sroem needs to go to school.”

Sroem found out about the Karaoke Programme, computer and English courses at MTI and she started attending them in 2013. The Karaoke Programme provides vulnerable children with knowledge on self-protection from abuse and oppression. During the programme, MTI social workers train the children through interactive methods such as games, songs and drama.

Given her strained financial situation at home, Phearun arranged for Sroem to be on the Family Sponsorship Program.

The MTI Family Sponsorship Program offers financial assistance to families living in Phnom Penh slums, primarily to help them send their children to school. In addition, they receive other support services such as counselling, social work, hospital and medical assistance, as well as training in child safety, hygiene and abuse issues. The goal is to see these families empowered to be financially independent.

Under the program, Sroem received financial assistance which goes towards her school fees, textbooks, uniforms, rice and supplementary pocket money to ensure that she can continue to receive an education and adequate nutrition.

Sroem, now in Grade 7, treasures the opportunity of studying. She is doing well academically, always coming top of the class. “I enjoy school life very much and have a lot of friends in school and MTI,” remarked Sroem, with a sweet smile.

“I am thankful for the MTI staff and supporters all around the world. Because of them, I can go to school and my family has enough food to eat,” says Sroem with gratitude. “In secondary school, I will study harder. I want to get a scholarship and study overseas.”

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