Growing up, Phally Pheng knew she wanted to be a teacher. Today, with the help of sponsorship, she’s standing at the front of the class
Phally Pheng likes getting hands up in the air. Phally, a former sponsored child who now teaches in northeast Cambodia
, gives lessons that are not one-way. She wants her students to participate—for their hands to spring up when she asks a question. One August morning, the 21-year-old teacher called a boy to the blackboard. He didn’t hesitate to get his hands on some chalk. Before class, Phally told me that her only dream was to become a teacher. “I told my sponsor this and she encouraged me to study hard.” The boy at the board was sponsored, too. If he follows his teacher’s example of adding determin
ation to sponsorship, his dream could also come true.
Phally Pheng and her students.
During a break from teaching, Phally sat with me in an empty classroom and recalled the days before World Vision came to her Samlot
community. Her parents were farmers but they didn’t earn enough to support Phally, and her younger sister and brother. Phally’s parents had to borrow money from her aunt to pay school fees. Until she turned nine and a Canadian began to sponsor her, Phally went to school, but her classes were outside—her community didn’t have a building for the children to learn in.
With sponsorship, the community changed in many ways. “There was a lot of development,” says Phally. “World Vision built a well, roads and school buildings.” Phally added that the well, in particular, made life easier. “We used to fetch water as far as eight kilometres away. But after we had the well, it was easy for us to get water.”
Phally also had a relationship with her sponsor, who sent Phally letters twice a year. “She would ask about my family and my schooling. She wanted to know how I was doing. She encouraged me a lot to study hard.” Phally would write back and tell her sponsor about her life and successes.
Phally also keeps her family close. When she was younger, she enjoyed cooking for her parents and siblings. Her favourite meals then were sour soup and fried meat. (Now her taste buds prefer kako soup and pork.)
After she finished high school, Phally went to college. She decided to become a teacher to help fix a problem she still saw in rural Samlot. “When I was growing up, we didn’t have enough teachers. I found this didn’t encourage us to go to school. I wanted to help my community.”
She has done just that for the past four years, teaching a number of grades and a variety of subjects. Her favourite subject is literacy (“I love reading,” she says). In class, Phally proudly wears a traditional Cambodian dress, but her pride for her students, who are all sponsored, seems most evident. “Through sponsorship, children have a chance to gain knowledge,” she says. “They receive what they need.” Phally is proof—she received what she needed to realize her dream.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Childview.