Steve Mojica is the Technical Advisor for Senhoa’s preschool programs, Lotus Kids’ Club. As a social worker with 20 plus years of experience working with young children and families, he has been devoting his expertise for the past three years to our foundation. Here he shares with us a story about one of our beloved teachers and her journey to LKC.
At Lotus Kids' Club our three full-time teachers have been with us almost from the start, which was over 6 years ago. I don't believe many preschool/kindergarten programs can boast that even in the Western world, certainly not in Cambodia. I feel they are all competent teachers, understanding what young children need in order to be successful in primary school. That is what we do, prepare the children so they are ready to learn. School readiness is what we are about. Although none of our teachers have had formal training in early childhood development or education--there are no programs at the universities in Cambodia that offer degrees in that field of study--these teachers do a fine a job as any I have seen in my decades of work in early childhood education. I don't credit myself, as most of their learning has come from me, but in their willingness and enthusiasm to learn and their love of teaching the children. They all have had their individual journeys to LKC. What follows is one journey.
Salin (named changed to protect her identity) was born in a poor and rural province in Cambodia to a family with 10 children. She was a middle child with brothers and sisters both older and younger. The two-parent family farmed rice and sold ice cream. They were very poor, like most families here, so all family members--even the youngest--worked to help support the family. At 6 years old she would daily have to pick morning glory, a staple leafy green vegetable in Cambodia, and sell it for less than 100 riel (500 riel equals less than 13 cents). She was fortunate to attend school through 4th grade but unfortunately left school to move to Phnom Penh with her father and a few of her brothers. In PP they could earn money to send back home. To this day she regrets having to give up her studies.
At 9 years old in PP she would cook and clean for her father and brothers and sometimes work with them at construction sites. Over the years until she was 12 she would occasionally go back home to attend school. But missing so much time in school she was always behind in her studies.
At 12 she started working at a brick factory in PP, although her mother wanted her to continue her studies. She felt her family needed the money she could send home. It was difficult and sometimes dangerous work. At around 14-15 years old Salin worked with her brother in the construction industry, again with grueling work and long hours. She returned to work in the brick factory at around 20 years old. At 22 she went to work in a sewing factory for better pay and benefits however with long hours and pay though better still low. Around this time she entered into an arranged marriage.
Salin's husband was a good partner, and they had one child, a daughter. Unfortunately they had financial problems and lost money in a scam. Her husband blamed her and left. The child was 2 years old and a judge awarded custody to the husband. This was very painful for her and still is although she has contact with her. Salin was presented with an opportunity to move to Siem Reap for a job maintaining a household. It was in SR that she met her second husband. When LKC opened, her home was right next door and she would see and hear the kids playing. She always loved children and regretted she didn't continue her studies, knowing the importance of these children gaining an education.
Salin's niece attended our program so she asked our program manager if there was ever a job available she would be interested. Lucky for us there was as our cook/cleaner. Salin took on the position and did a fabulous job and was enthusiastic and meticulous. It was obvious that she loved being around the children and was happy to help care for them when needed. She seemed to be a natural teacher to us. So when we expanded to a second location, we approached her about a teacher position. It is an understatement to say she was thrilled. She learned quickly about what our goals were for the children and was eager to do her best.
It took her a while to feel confident in her work but through our encouragement and praise for her work, she felt she had found a place of work she could be proud of. She has steadily improved since she started and has pulled herself out of poverty. She has a 3-year-old daughter now and with her husband is building a small business. She states she loves her job and will continue to work for LKC as long as we exist. She helped make LKC the premier preschool/kindergarden program that it is. We are fortunate her life’s journey took her to LKC. She deserves to have a happy and fulfilling life after the hardships she endured. We are happy for her.