Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Breaking the Barrier

Manrath Kong

Growing up in Siem Reap, a provincial town in northern Cambodia, Manrath Kong defied the odds that often condemn the daughters of lower class families to a life of illiteracy and poverty. Her parents divorced when she was only three, and with two younger siblings, she had the additional burden of helping her family survive. Manrath could easily have dropped out of school and begun working at the type of low-skilled jobs that keep so many Cambodians mired in poverty. She credits her education with helping her get to where she is today. At age 25, she is the local manager of KruKhmer in Siem Riep, an organization dedicated to empowering children - especially girls just like herself - to get an education and learn skills that will allow them to become economically self-sufficient. Her work is her passion, because she has lived their life – she knows where they come from and where they need to go.

In 2003. with her high school diploma in hand, the address of some distant relatives in her pocket, and a knowledge of Japanese, English and Thai (learned through classes at Siem Riep’s Wat Bo Pagoda) 18 year-old Manrath traveled to Phnom Penh to find a suitable job to support her family and to pursue her dream of earning a college degree. “The first time I arrived in Phnom Penh,” she recalls, “I was overwhelmed by the city so full of modern things. Everyone looked strange to me as I walked along the road to my relative’s house. I told myself, ‘I have to be brave and go forward without giving up so I can bring change back to help my village.” When she got to her relative’s house, however, she faced her first setback when she found that she was not really wanted. Instead of having a safe place to land while she looked for a job, she had to go out and find someplace to live.

Manrath’s languages helped her to land a job teaching English and Japanese to children and adults at an NGO called Cambodia Development of Education. She found that she enjoyed teaching, but also realized that education had to go beyond languages and literacy in order to make a difference in their lives. Her own plans for college fell by the wayside, as she struggled to send money back to her family to ensure that her siblings could continue their education. After four years, Manrath moved back to Siem Riep,
which is best known for its proximity to the famous Angkor Wat Temple. Her plan was to continue teaching and to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Rural Development at Angkor University.

Then, in 2008, an angel appeared. Manrath was introduced to a Japanese woman, Chehiro Sinoda, 32, who had come to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Thanks once again to her languages, Manrath became Ms. Chehiro’s guide, introducing her to Siem Riep and its people and surroundings. Impressed with Manrath’s dedication and passion for education and helping the poor, Ms. Sinoda decided to set up an NGO to help turn Manrath’s vision into reality. The result was KruKhmer. The organization is in its infancy and is still developing its training program, which runs from 3-5 months. Currently 12 young women and 2 men are enrolled and the total is 197 trainees as of 30th September 2010.

KruKhmer’s goal is not so much to provide a formal education, as to create a support system that will allow young people – especially girls - as well as illiterate adults and the disabled to become literate, study and achieve their maximum potential. This means learning business skills and foreign languages that will help them overcome the obstacles posed by a rapidly modernizing economy. Entrepreneurship classes, for example, teach students how to use skills they already have – like sewing or knitting – and the raw materials available to them to make products that they can sell. A small business selling clothing or soap is often the first step to developing confidence and rising out of poverty.

10.9 million Cambodians (almost 78%) live on less than $2 a day, and only 57% of children achieve a 5th grade education. Facing statistics like these, Manrath continually asks herself, “What else can I do to help these people? How can I help increase literacy and help families raise their income?” Since most rural areas, including Siem Riep, have very limited opportunities for education, she decided to start an English and Japanese class in her home where she teaches local children free of charge in the evenings and on weekends.

In early 2009, Manrath was at the local CheyvormanVII Hospital visiting a friend who had just given birth, when she saw a recently orphaned boy who was crying inconsolably. Manrath cried too as she remembered the day that her parents divorced and her father left the family. After making some inquiries, Manrath made the unconventional decision to adopt the boy, named Kong Sovannmara, as her own son. As a single woman, she knew this went very much against Cambodian tradition, but in her heart, she knew she had made the right choice.

“I can live with peace and a clear conscience even if others judge me for adopting a child as a single woman. What I have done is to save a little boy who desperately needs warmth and caring from his parents, especially from his mother, and that’s who I am now,” Manrath declares firmly. “I am so happy and excited to be a mother,” she adds. “The saddest thing for me would have been to leave him at the orphanage by himself just because I was worried about what other people would think of me.”

In adopting her son, Manrath Kong has brightened the future of one child. But through her work at KruKhmer, she is brightening the future of a whole generation of children in Siem Riep.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Young girls learn how to knit
Manrath teachs children at home
Trainee's Home

Downloads

Comments

Ruun Abdi's picture

Bravo!

I really loved your work! well done hany you are really brilliant!!!

Cheers.

Sarvina's picture

Hi Ruun, Thank you so much my

Hi Ruun,

Thank you so much my dear!

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Liz4peace's picture

Great story, great pictures!

After reading your piece, I would so love to meet Manrath Kong in person - she sounds like an extraordinary woman! Excellent job, Sarvina!

Sarvina's picture

Dearest Liz, Really thanks to

Dearest Liz,

Really thanks to you! Yes she is an extraordinary woman who always inspires me how to stand up and talk. She is really amazing!!! She will be glad to hear you would love to meet her in person. I pass this to her.

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Lehner's picture

Dear Sarvina, Fabulous, and

Dear Sarvina,

Fabulous, and boy have you worked hard to make this is a compelling, readable story that pulls one right into Manrath's life experience. It not only helps me visualize the life of the poor in Cambodia but it makes me really reflect on Manrath's strength of character and courage. I love articles that make me reflect more deeply and you have opened up a new world to me.

Congratulations Sarvina!

Love,

Monica

Sarvina's picture

Dearest Monica, Thank you so

Dearest Monica,

Thank you so much for encouragement! It is because I have learned from you, my midwife Liz and other sisters on PulseWire. I am so happy to know you and others through WorldPulse.

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

vivian's picture

Well done Sarvina, your piece

Well done Sarvina, your piece is great. Keep it up sister.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Sarvina's picture

Thank you so much for taking

Thank you so much for taking a look to my profile Vivian!

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Mursal Hamraz's picture

Really Stirring,

Dear Sarvina,

Firstly thanks a lot for sharing Manrath's story. I loved the way you narrated her struggles and the ways she coped with. Manrath's activities for empowering children through the activities and skills such as knitting, entrepreneurship, business, and sewing are the best. In fact teaching them these skills will certainly make them able to find the expanse of their education (as if their parents are not capable to do so) and then get educated in order to fulfill their future and life goals. Her great work will work out to bring changes in the lives of hundreds of children in future. I am really happy for it.

Best Wishes,

Mursal,

Sarvina's picture

Dear Mursal, Thank you so

Dear Mursal,

Thank you so much Mursal! I am happy to hear you love it. Yes all these training skills are so important for adult women coz around these ages they don't want to study literature but they wish to learn skills such as knitting, sewing..like this so they can use all these for running their business to raise their lives better. Of course I am so proud of her work! Happy New Year! Wish you all the best:)

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

usha kc's picture

Touching one!!

Sarvina dear, so touching story u mentioned about.It's really inspiring to all who sometimes gives their step up when they are walikng for destination. Bravo! Manrath,u just keep ur confidence on and on.

Sarvina, hats off to ur writting skill!!! it's great,, duriing reading ur words I felt i was talking with Manrath.

keep writting for inspireing to all who want to change the world !!!

love
Usha

Sarvina's picture

Hi Usha, Thank you so much

Hi Usha,

Thank you so much for taking time to read through my article and giving me a comment! It is such a wonderful encouragement for me to go forward. I am so happy and excited to get your precious comment:)

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Farona's picture

Waw!

Sarvina ! I love martha's story. She is so strong, eager and has a strong sense what gives you true independence and prosperity - EDUCATION !

Being able to speak so many languages is truly an advantage which many girls do not realize. I am glad she used her skills not only to bring about change in her own life, but also her community.

Let her know, a sis from SA commends her work !

My best wishes

Sarvina's picture

Hi Farona, Hope you are

Hi Farona,

Hope you are doing fine. Yes she is so strong and inspiring. She wants all of us-poor families have better lives by learning skills and foreign languages. Of course I will pass it to her and she will be happy if she know people interest on her profile. Thank you so much dear for taking time to read my article and giving me a comment!

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

rmweaver's picture

Hello Sarvina! What an

Hello Sarvina!

What an inspiring story! I would love to know how it was you came to meet Manrath. Her story is moving and she is a trail blazer in so many ways! Thank you for bring her story to light. Your story about Manrath shows us all that with a strong spirit and heart, we can all find our right path.

Thank you for sharing this story!

rmweaver

Sarvina's picture

Hello Rmweaver! Thanks so

Hello Rmweaver!

Thanks so much for reading my article and writing me a comment! Yeh I did know her a bit while she was living in Phnom Penh as I also ever learned English from her when I was in year 1 student. What a coincident coz I have met her again with my trip to Siem Ream then I asked her to interview and write her bio. I am so interested on her, she's always kind to poor student:)

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

WILDKat's picture

Without no longer

I appreciate how you leave the reader with a positive finish to Manrath's story. She clearly is transformed personally and is using what she has learned to spare other poor girls and disabled from suffering the difficulties she experienced as an orphan in Cambodia. Thank you for finding a human being with such a huge heart and telling her story with such humanity. Manrath is clearly no longer without family. Thanks for sharing her story with us.

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

Sarvina's picture

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Sarvina's picture

Hi Kat, Thank you so much for

Hi Kat,

Thank you so much for reading my article and writing me a comment! Yeah it's good coz of your help to paraphrase my paragraph and other friends' help so I'm able to complete my first assignment. She has a warm family now and she will be happy if she sees all these comments. I will pass it to her! Hope 2011 is an amazing year for you!!!

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Bravo!

Bravo Sarvina!

This is a fantastic first assignment. I love the way you integrated quotes, statistics and still made the story very personal. It is also solutions oriented because you presented what this amazing woman has overcome and what she is doing today.

Great job!

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Sarvina's picture

Hi Rachael, Thanks so much

Hi Rachael,

Thanks so much for your encouragement! I am happy to get your comment.

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

womenspace's picture

CAMBODIA: Ordinary Women Can Make a Difference

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative