by Heang Sokuntheary
Growing up, I felt miserable comparing myself with my other classmates in high school. Many of my friends were the youngest child in their family, or born into a well-off family. I observed that every day, besides going to school, they did not really do any hard work at home. I saw they had nice clothes, good study materials, a nice phone, all of which I didn’t have back then. Some of them would have a lot of free time to meet up or go out somewhere to have fun. Unlike me.
Because I am the first child of the family, I had to spend almost all my time with my younger siblings to look after them. My parents were very busy, so I had to help out a lot around the house too. I would miss parties and gatherings with my friends a lot, since I didn’t have the time. Somehow, I tended to feel sad about myself and jealous toward those people.
However, one day, I realized how lucky I was to be me, the Theary growing up in my family, having all the support and bonds around me, despite any hard work or business. One morning, when I was washing my clothes, I saw a man walk into my house, drunk even at ten. He was only in his thirties, but I felt like he was already fifty years old. His hair was long and messy. He wore a t-shirt and shorts that were way bigger than his body. Walking and laughing clumsily, he went straight to my dad and asked, “Kru (teacher), can I borrow 1,000 riels, so that I can buy a drink?” My dad then talked to him for a few minutes, urging him to stop drinking any more since he was drunk already.
I had never known or seen this man before in the village, so I turned to my mom and asked, “Who is this man, mom?” Glancing at the man, my mom turned back to me and told me his name and where he lived. She described him as a man ‘in a drunk cycle’, meaning that he was mostly seen drinking or being drunk. She told me that he had two daughters, who were two and three years younger than I was. I was in grade ten at the time, but the two girls were sent to be housemaids for families somewhere in the city, so that they could earn and send money back home. I was shocked.
I imagined the girls who were only around 11 or 12 years old, had not been to school, and already worked as housemaids somewhere with total strangers. They were not only apart from their parents, but also would not know what their future looked like. Besides, seeing their father drunk every day, the girls must have had a very hard time. Until then, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to be born into my family and how loved I was.
Despite any difficulty, my parents have always wanted the best for me, sent me to school, taught me at home, made me help with work around the house, fed me good food, said good night to me every night, and always asked me how my day was.
Therefore, in writing this blog post, I want to tell all of you out there that if you have good food to eat, water to drink, a soft bed to sleep on, TV to watch, a roof above you, school to go to, parents to consult your problems with, you are very fortunate and luckier than a lot of people in this country, and millions of people around the world. You should always be grateful and embrace what you have, not taking it for granted. If you compare yourself with a daughter of a millionaire, you would surely be heartbroken and depressed. But if you see other people out there who can’t even go to school, you will find a new motivation to step forward with your life.
Because I saw a lot of problems happen to girls in my village, I started to have the courage and motivation to be the best version of myself. I vowed to be a good student and the person who could help those unfortunate girls in remote villages to get access to good education despite any challenges. I believe that studying is the best way for girls to have dreams, and to realize them.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.