University Scholarships

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.

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)

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!

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