Back To School: Rebuilding the Education System in Cambodia

Through the month of August, we’re featuring stories about children going back to school in the United States and abroad. Join us to celebrate the joy and power of education.

back to school
Two friends in Cambodia are ready for school, thanks to new backpacks and school supplies.

Like many children in Cambodia, Huonh and Pour grew up in a remote area of Cambodia, where there is little government support for education. Most adults who live in these small villages remember growing up during the Khmer Rouge regime, which abolished education and killed 3 million educated people. Today, the value of education has been forgotten and replaced with the need for children to work and support their families.

This is why 2016 Honoree Ponheary Ly started the Ponheary Ly Foundation, which is slowly rebuilding the idea that education is the key to unlock the future for thousands of children in Cambodia. Ponheary’s father, a teacher, was murdered by the Khmer Rouge, so today, the Foundation is a way to continue his legacy.

ponheary ly foundation
Huonh and Phour with
Field Director Farida Mot, who advocated for their engineering education.

Huonh and Pour came to the Ponheary Ly Foundation to get their education. They stayed in one of the Foundation’s residences in Siem Reap, along with 54 other girls from remote provinces. Every year, 100% of these girls graduate from high school.

Graduating with outstanding scores in science and math, Huonh and Pour then set their sights on going to college. They got scholarships; but then, they were told not to pursue a degree in math and science. That just wasn’t something that girls were supposed to study. Fortunately, the Ponheary Ly Foundation intervened and advocated for getting the girls into an engineering program.

Pour, in training at National Polytechnic Institute at Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Finally, both were accepted into the National Polytechnic Institute in Phnom Penh to study engineering. They were the first two young women to enroll.

Everyone was skeptical that these two girls from rural Cambodia could flourish in a field normally restricted to men. At one point, the Director of the school stated that “normally ladies who study mechanics is not good because when she goes to practice in the field, she will feel uncomfortable. She will get dirty hands and clothes.”

But both girls had learned from the Ponheary Ly Foundation to work hard and achieve their dreams. Soon. Huonh and Pour had become the first and second in their class. When they graduated, companies like Samsung and Motorola were asking them to work with them.

Stories like these are not rare at the Ponheary Ly Foundation. For just $20, you can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of joy in learning, and a commitment to education. Donate now >>

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