Cambodia

How She’s Giving Back

Dropping Out of School

Her name is Sreymom; she is Cambodian. She grew up in a village as the oldest of five children. Sadly, when she was just twelve years old her mother died. Then helping her father earn an income for the family became her responsibility too, and after she completed sixth grade, her father asked her to begin full-time factory work.  

Sreymom describes, “In my village, mostly at the age of 12–13 years old, (the young people) will (lie about) their age in order to work in a factory. They don’t want to study but want to work in a factory where they can earn money and become beautiful. However, I don’t want to work there. I want to study even though I don’t know what it will become. I still want to study. ” 

At twelve years old, Sreymom was underweight. When factory managers saw her small size, they refused to hire her. Not a single factory accepted her. However, every other one of Sreymom’s friends, who were of normal height and weight, received job offers and began working full-time in factories just like they had dreamed of. 

After all the factory rejections, Sreymom’s father sat back and considered what to do. If not in a factory, where else could he find work for Sreymom? Soon he found a skills training center in Kompong Chnang province for women who had dropped out of school. The center taught marketable skills like sewing and cooking. 

An Unexpected Opportunity

Sreymom really did not want to go to the training center. She wanted to continue her formal education. But she could not speak up or refuse her father. So in the end, she left home and began the multiple day journey to her new life at the skills training center. On the way, she stopped to lodge a single night with one of her relatives. The relative worked as a cook at a Christian orphanage called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO). This ‘chance’ visit would change Sreymom’s life forever.

While she was visiting, the CRO manager also met Sreymom and found out about where she was headed and why. In that one evening, the director ended up inviting Sreymom to live at CRO instead and pursue her studies there. After some initial surprise and discussion, Sreymom eventually agreed.

But the decision didn’t come without cost. When Sreymom’s father found out about the sudden change in plans, he became upset; and for the whole first year, he couldn’t support it.  He very much wanted Sreymom to give up her formal education so that she could earn money. But finally, the CRO director was able to talk with her father and explain the benefits of Sreymom furthering her education, and Sreymom’s father eventually agreed.

The Love and Care of Strangers

When Sreymom first heard of God at CRO, she was incredulous. She firmly committed herself to not believing in him. However, day by day, God used the people at the center to give Sreymom some of the love and care that she had never experienced before.  

She confesses, “No one forced me to believe in God at all, but their kindness and love from people that I have met…they treated me like family. And that made me open my mind unnoticedly.”

Through CRO, Sreymom eventually successfully completed middle school and also high school. But then, she faced a new problem: she could not afford college.

College Problems

At this time, Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation (CWEF) was introduced to Sreymom and took up her case. CWEF fundraised through generous people like you to provide Sreymom with the necessary funds and an opportunity to fulfill her college dream.

And then, thanks to her own determination as well as a scholarship provided through the kindness of people like you, a well-known university in Phnom Penh admitted Sreymom as an English major!

At university, Sreymom faced many other battles including the fact that mastering the English language was incredibly challenging. At one point, she almost wanted to drop out of college altogether. But…her now personal faith in God kept her strong. Throughout this season of Sreymom’s life, CWEF staff continued to surround her with encouragement and a loving community. 

Sreymom’s Success

And in the end, she made it! Not only through middle school but through college. She achieved the dream that at one point looked impossible. After successfully graduating from college, Sreymom received job offers with good salaries from schools in Phnom Penh. But she turned down every single offer. Her desire wasn’t to make a lot of money. Instead, she desired to give back to the people that gave so much to her. Now she is working full-time at the Child Rescue Organization that she used to live at providing English lessons to more than one hundred Cambodian students for free.  

Today Sreymom says, “There are many kids who need my help to provide them with knowledge, and this is the best way that I could contribute back to my community.”   

Sreymom is grateful to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation and all those who helped her on her journey! Now she can use her knowledge and story to inspire the next generation of students to not drop out of school but pursue their dreams instead.

It’s extremely exciting to see how everything Sreymom has learned, spiritually and educationally, is already spilling over and building up the next generation! Thank you for helping to break the cycle of poverty for young people like Sreymom through your generous giving and support of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation.

Sreymom graduating from university surrounded by her classmates
Sreymom with some of her students

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This story was written by Panhary, CWEF Education Program Coordinator in Cambodia, with April Chiasson, CWEF Communications Manager.

No More Night

Hel, a Cambodian man from a rural village, used to run with a disreputable crowd. Back then, he worked mostly in secret under the cover of night. But all that changed in 2014 when he attended a Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation health education and literacy (HEAL) training project with a bunch of his buddies.

When Hel was growing up, the school near his home only offered classes through sixth grade. Because of this, he never had the opportunity to attend high school. But the new information he suddenly learned about health and sanitation through the HEAL project felt exciting to him. He believed the new information was vital for the future welfare of his village, and it completely changed his perspective on life. He soon decided to earn his living in a completely different way and began working for local NGO’s toiling to improve his own community and increase the level of child literacy.

After several years of steady service for his community, Hel is now 38 years old and serves his village as the Sunday pastor. No longer wanting to conceal his activities under cover of night, he now farms cassava during the day to support his wife and three children. It’s amazing to see how one educational opportunity can transform the trajectory of someone’s life for the better!

We’re thankful for Hel, his heart for service, and all that he’s doing to empower his own village community in Cambodia. And we’re thankful for you and your generous gifts to the HEAL program! HEAL project participants develop awareness and receive training to serve as health advocates in their own communities. The HEAL program also provides needed infrastructure, such as water filters and water wells, along with hygiene education for the whole community.

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Help change more lives like Hel’s by donating to CWEF programs here.

This story was written by Kanhchana, Director CWEF Cambodia, with April Chiasson, Communications Manager.

a recent photo of a young Cambodian scholarship recipient, Ruth

It Was Just Like a Dream

“There’s no use studying. Your family will never make it out of these rice fields. But if you go study in the city, be careful not to come back pregnant.”

Ruth, a young Cambodian girl, heard these words from her neighbors more than once. They pierced her heart every time. But she is strong. “I am going to prove them wrong,” Ruth said, believing that God would provide a way. 

Ruth was born on an island without enough teachers. To get a better education, her parents sent her far away to live with her grandparents and three of her uncles, who often drank too much. Through tears, Ruth still recalls nights when her intoxicated uncles did things like smash through their household door with an axe.

Grabbing a bite to eat

Ruth’s father works in farming and construction as well as selling fish, snails, and frogs. Still, resources were few. “I didn’t have books to read,” Ruth admitted, “or enough study materials for my schoolwork…” 

But eventually, through your generous donations to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, Ruth received a scholarship to attend university in Phnom Penh, and her life completely changed: 

Ruth teaching other students

“Honestly, it was just like a dream…” she said. “I could get away from the cursing voice of my uncle. It is just like freedom and peace. Now I can go to university and live in a beautiful dorm. God is so amazing.” 

Ruth studies and serves God diligently. In the past, she taught free classes for children and served at her church. Today she plans to major in biological engineering and hopes to inspire her community with farming technology to raise livestock and produce healthy canned foods. In the future, she hopes these agricultural initiatives will support higher education for children in her community. 

Thank you for your generous giving! You are an integral part in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping students like Ruth experience a brighter future! 

Learn more about your impact through CWEF!  Read Phanna’s story.

Connect with a community that’s passionate about supporting young scholars like Ruth!  Follow us on Facebook: @cwefhk

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Article written by Panhary Port Puth (Cambodia Education Programs Director) with April Chiasson (CWEF Communications Manager)

No Longer “Underwater” (Thanks to Clean Water)

Maiy was stressed and worried. His family was “underwater.”

As a new husband to his wife Chantou and adoptive father to her two sons, Maiy was feeling the weight of the family’s debt. They had taken out a microfinance loan to buy equipment for their family’s small farming operation, but now Maiy couldn’t even stay healthy enough to keep working every day in the fields in order to pay down the debt.

He and the rest of the family would frequently fall ill with diarrhea and painful stomach aches. At the time, they didn’t know the cause of their sickness: their daily habit of drinking the rainwater that they collected at their home in rural Tboung Khmum province, Cambodia.

With their frequent waterborne illness, the family’s medical expenses piled on top of their other daily expenses, which piled on top of their debt. Maiy couldn’t see a way out.

Then, through a connection with their local Christan church, Maiy and Chantou learned about a BioSand Water Filter project in their community, made possible by your generous gifts to CWEF.

They learned more about the water filters from their pastor, and they attended a training session where they learned about the dangers of drinking unsafe water, as well as different ways they could protect themselves and their kids.

Maiy and Chantou participate in HEAL training

Finally, they received the gift of a BioSand Water Filter in 2021. Since then, they have had the great blessing of drinking clean and safe water every day.

Maiy recently shared:

“Now, I feel relaxed and happy after getting our Biosand Water Filter from CWEF. We can filter either rainwater or well water for our family’s daily drinking needs. I also regularly bottle the water from the filter and take it with me to the fields when I go out to work.”

Maiy, Chantou, and their boys don’t get sick as often as they did before, and now Maiy has plenty of time and energy to do his farming work each day. He estimates that they will have the microfinance loan debt paid off in just 7 more months.

As a committed Christian and a member of their local church, Maiy and Chantou have also been led to participate as trained local advocates in the broader community health and development program called HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”), which is sponsored by CWEF and facilitated in partnership with the local pastor, Sareun, and his wife, Ly. The team of HEAL advocates in their community have participated in a series of in-depth training sessions, and are committed to being agents of positive change in their area.  

Maiy and his family now want to do what they can to bless and serve others in their community, as they themselves have been blessed through the local church, in partnership with CWEF.

Maiy closed our conversation with this simple and selfless note of gratitude and hope:

“My family members all got healthier now, and I hope to see that God will use my family in the future to share the Gospel with others.”

Struggle, Sacrifice, and Opportunity for Srey Nith

Srey Nith knows all about hard work and sacrifice. She has seen her parents model these things, giving their best to create better opportunities for their three daughters.

Srey Nith also knows about struggle and failure, as her parents took out loans to finance their small rice farming operation, only to experience disappointment and defeat when things did not work out as planned.

Because of the resulting financial struggle, her parents made the difficult decision to send their daughters to live in a Christian church dormitory in their home province of Prey Veng, while the parents left to go find work in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, which is 3-4 hours by car to the northwest from their home.

Srey Nith at her family home in Prey Veng

Even though she went through her high school years as a so-called “left-behind” child without her parents by her side, Srey Nith has grown into a very responsible and capable student. She ranked number 8 of 60 total students in Grade 12, and the pastor at her local church described her as a diligent student and a faithful helper in their church community. She learned discipline and helped to teach the younger children at the dorm.

During this time, Srey Nith worried about what would happen after high school graduation. She was very capable and motivated to continue her education in university, but as she considered her family’s situation, she realized her parents would not be able to support her at all. Every month, they needed to spend carefully so they could save enough to pay back the loan payments to the bank.

Srey Nith’s commitment was strong, though. She told herself that no matter what happened, she would move to the city to enroll in university, and even if she had to go without food or a place to sleep, she would be ready to tolerate anything to make her dream happen. At the same time, she shared all these burdens with her brothers and sisters at church, and they prayed with Srey Nith about God’s plans for her future.

Visiting her mom’s rented room in Phnom Penh

By God’s grace, Srey Nith learned about the opportunity to apply for support through the CWEF University Scholarship program, which is made possible by your generous prayers and gifts. She applied for a scholarship and was accepted. In 2021, SreyNith completed her second year of classes in the Business Management degree program at her university in Phnom Penh.

Srey Nith shares:

“To see my parents living in poverty always strengthens my commitment to find a way to pay them back and do everything I can to help them when they are getting older. But I do not want to end up working in a garment factory like my mom. My dream is to hold a pen and not a needle. I want to become a businesswoman in the future.”

Srey Nith, with fellow CWEF University Scholars

When she came to Phnom Penh for university, Srey Nith decided to once again live in a Christian dorm. She wants to stay close to God, do what she can to serve the church, and have a good environment for studying. Through the challenges of the COVID pandemic, including outbreaks in Cambodia and mostly online university classes throughout 2021, she has studied hard and has kept herself busy – reading more books and doing additional research for her assignments.

With fellow University Scholars & Panhary of CWEF

On behalf of the entire CWEF team, thank you! It is our privilege and joy to partner with you to create opportunities for students like Srey Nith. Her hope is strong and her future is bright, thanks to you!

Cultivating a Healthier Future for Mrs. Hun’s Family

In fall 2020, CWEF staff and local partners surveyed 50 families in several villages in Tboung Khmum province to assess their health needs. A request for water wells had been received, and research was done to assess the overall health situation, as well as other needs and opportunities in the area.

Mrs. Hun, her husband and 16-year-old son are one of the families being served by CWEF’s HEAL (Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy) project, which is providing Water Wells and BioSand Water Filters in addition to HEAL community health education training, in which local health advocates are identified and trained through a series of in-depth Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions.

Mrs. Hun’s family

Many families, like that of Mrs. Hun, face a myriad of challenges. Her husband of 28 years is disabled, adding difficulty for eking out a living in the countryside. Sadly, their son has also suffered from the after-effects of meningitis, which he contracted at the age of nine. Lack of clean water compounded the health problems for Mrs. Hun and her family.

The HEAL community health training seeks to provide both a growth mindset around community needs and opportunities, and specifically a deeper awareness of healthy habits related to basic health, sanitation, and hygiene. CWEF staff must find creative ways to provide the training to ensure understanding and encourage a change in behavior. In the case of this HEAL health education training, roughly a third of the participants are illiterate. The effectiveness of BioSand Water Filters and new water wells can only be sustained through health education and the integration of new healthy habits.

HEAL TOT (Training of Trainers) at Tboung Khmum

For this work, CWEF’s Cambodia team uses the mindsets and resources from the Global CHE (Community Health Evangelism) Network. In Tboung Khmum, we are partnering with Pastor Chea Sareun, Deaconess Kim Ly, members of the local church, and others from the surrounding villages who want to work toward positive change in their own communities.

CWEF projects provide a platform for encouraging sustainable change, aiming for long-term improvements in people’s lives. Project recipients are treated as partners as they receive awareness and training to enhance their livelihoods. Projects like HEAL provide both needed infrastructure, such as water filters and/or water wells, and deeper health and hygiene education for the whole community.

CWEF’S Kanhchana Thoy, with local church partners

Gifts like yours provide life-changing BioSand Water Filters to families like that of Mrs. Hun. Her husband and son will have an improved quality of life as they are spared from additional water-related illnesses. Daily life for Mrs. Hun is positively changed as her access to clean, reliable water is given through your generous support.

Clean Water with Clear Impact for Chanthy

Chanthy, 38, raises her two children with her husband who is a farmer in Samrith village in Kompong Thom province. Their day begins early, with her husband going to fish with a hand-held net around 5 AM. On a good day, he will catch several big fish, which he can sell at the market. Smaller fish are cooked for the family’s meal along with rice and vegetables that they grow for themselves. Chanthy tends to the chickens, ducks, and vegetable farming while their children are at school. 

While their diet was well-balanced, the family often suffered from a variety of illnesses like abdominal pain and headaches. “My husband had typhoid and my children were weak from diarrhea,” shared Chanthy. Since other families in her village suffered similar sicknesses, she considered it normal and didn’t wonder about the root cause of their health problems.

“One day, the village chief come to invite me to join health training from CWEF. I already heard about this organization a few years ago, and that they provide bio-sand filters to families in our area. So, I went to listen to the training. I increased my knowledge of health issues, especially the negative effects of unclean water. After finishing the training, I really wanted to get the bio-sand filter soon because it`s very beneficial for my family.”



In 2019, Chanthy received a bio-sand filter from CWEF. She and her family immediately noticed the improvement to the quality of their water. The water was more transparent and the family’s food tasted better. “Nowadays, I don’t need much time for boiling water for my family, and they can drink whenever they want to.”

The bio-sand filter has positively impacted Chanthy’s family in measurable ways. “Our family is not rich, but at least we don’t get sick often like before. I have been saving some money with my husband to expand our animal raising. Right now, we have 30 ducks and 20 chickens, both big and small together.”

She concludes, “Thank you so much to CWEF for bio-sand filter projects that come to help my community and make us more aware about health and provide us with safe water!”


Empowerment in Cambodia

In June, 10 alumni and students from Hong Kong International School (HKIS) and nine high school students from Child Rescue Organization (CRO) in Kranglover, Cambodia joined together to teach English and organize a day camp for children studying at Stronghold Cambodia in Sihanoukville. …

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