“Your past does not define your future”
I want you to meet Amnach ( above with baby Bora) , one of the young people who work with who WILL change the world. Amnach is already making a huge difference in the lives of the hundreds of children he works with everyday in Soksan Village. Amnach is 20 years old, but already he is one of our best teachers, he is an absolute asset to our foundation and let me tell you why.
When we first met Amnach he was living in a slum in Phnom Penh, like most young people in the slums he was involved with a hip hop gang, however because he was still fairly young all he did was dance, he hadn’t yet been brought into the world of drugs and crime. He used to tell us that he wasn’t interested in any of that stuff, all he wanted to do was dance.
Amnach was born in Kampong Cham Province, he lived there with his parents and brothers. When Amnach was four years old his parents divorced. Amnach’s mother had found out that her husband had another wife secretly, something that is common in Cambodia.
Amnach and his mother went to live in Buntey Meanchey Province, for a number of years he said life was good. He enjoyed living near his aunty and attending primary school and playing with his friends and cousin. When Amnach turned 10 however his mother and his aunty had a falling out, over an argument about people slandering her for being a divorcee. Amnach and his mother moved again to a new place, shortly after they arrived Amnach’s mother found a new boyfriend and within a few months they were married. At first Amnach believed this was good for his mother and good for their family, they had a man who could care for them and bring their family together again.
But Amnach’s idea of this man were very wrong. His new step father was an alcoholic and drank every day, every time he would drink he would get angry and hit Amnach and his mother, he was also having an affair, to make matters worse Amnach’s mother was pregnant with her next child. Amnach’s mother however said she wasn’t afriad of being alone and raising her family by herself, she was afraid of her husband - so she went down to the police station and divorced him. Her now ex-husband ran off with lots of their property and money, but he was gone now and the family no longer had to put up with his drinking or beatings.
Amnach’s mother couldn’t work, she was expecting a baby very soon and found it difficult to get enough money to find the family. Amnach knew that it was up to him to help his family out so he went off to work at a garbage dump and make money from begging on the streets. At 13 Amnach quit school and started working full time to help his family.
When Amnach’s brother was born, his mother went back to work. This meant that Amnach was now in charge of caring for his little brother, cooking and looking after the house. Amnach’s mother asked him to stop begging on the streets and she promised him that she wouldn’t get another husband and that she would care for the family and didn’t need another man to help her.
A few years later Amnach’s mother heard from her oldest son who was working in Phnom Penh at an organisation that worked in the slums in Phnom Penh. She took Amnach to go and live with him as she believed there would be a better life for him there. Amnach started studying English at a small school that operated in the slums in Phnom Penh. This school had a dancing class where a lot of the young people learnt hip hop and breakdancing moves and would often dance for money on the street and at clubs. Amnach spent a lot of his time practicing how to dance and he got very good at it very fast. One of Amnach’s friends suggested that they form a small dance crew and go and dance at restaurants and clubs and make money. He told Amnach he should stop studying at school and come and work dancing. It didn’t take long before the boys discovered that they couldn’t actually make very much money doing it, and Amnach returned home only to discover that his home was being evicted. The community he had known as home was now being torn about by a greedy company that wanted to use the land for development. Many people lost their homes, other moved far away to a relocation site and others started living in the building on the next block.
This is when we met Amnach, a young man with so much potential and so much life in his eyes. He was so loud, always laughing, always singing and always joking. We could see that Amnach had the potential to be an amazing leader, people were drawn to him, everyone loved him. We worried about Amnach’s future, we knew he was still young but we also knew it wouldn’t be too long before he could possibly get mixed up with the wrong crowd - we didn’t want this for this boy, we couldn’t let this happen. We invited Amnach to come and volunteer with us for a few months, teaching the kids in Soksan Village how to dance, how to play music, sing and play sport. He was amazing. The kids loved him and we could see how natural it was for him to be teaching and inspiring these young children. Amnach was only 18 when we decided to employ him full time at our foundation. We knew he had a lot to learn, but we had so much faith in this boy.
Recently Amnach has been working at the Northbridge International School, shadow teaching with some of the best teachers in Cambodia - teachers from Australia, American, Singapore, Cambodia, England etc. All of whom have different ideas, different learning techniques and different ways of how to engage, inspire and motivate the class. Amnach is soaking up every single one of these ideas, we worried that Amnach might struggle having to change his learning and teaching style - as he has never been trained at university - but to our delight he seems to be picking it up the best. We have no doubt in our mind that Amnach will become one of the very best teachers in Cambodia because he listens, he isn’t afraid to make mistakes, he tries new things, he respects everyone around him and he absolutely loves the children he works with and the people in Soksan Village - we could not ask for anything else.
Amnach is destined for greatness, and we feel absolutely privileged that we are able to tag along on his journey and watch him grow into the man he was always supposed to become.