Growing up in Cambodia’s remote northeast region, Naomi remembers playing in the trees, cool fresh mornings that smelled like rubber, red earth roads, lush greenery, and rolling hills.
However, life wasn’t easy for her. Schooling was limited and Naomi had to work in the fields to help her mother. After her father left them, Naomi’s mother remarried when Naomi was nine years old. Her new stepfather was not a good man, and he hurt Naomi. A community member introduced Naomi to Hagar after hearing her story.
“When I arrived at the Community Learning Center, I felt shy and ashamed. I didn’t know how to read or write. But I made many friends and realized I wasn’t the only one who was illiterate. The catch-up school allowed me to feel normal again,” says Naomi.
After four years at Hagar’s Community Learning Center where she was a star student, Naomi joined Pour un Sourire d’Enfant and her English improved.
At age 15, she transitioned to living with a foster family. “I felt loved and safe there. I now have surrogate brothers and sisters, and a second father and mother who care for me here in Phnom Penh.” With time, her confidence grew and she started to have dreams for her future.
“I was so happy to graduate from high school, but I didn’t know what to do at university. So I enrolled at the Royal University of Phnom Penh to study English. After a few months, I realized I wanted to study Sociology…because I wanted to be of help to other children like me, back home.
My Hagar case manager helped me so much throughout the years, and I was able to heal from the past with her help.
I feel so much hope. It was as if I was stuck in the muddy waters of my past, but I rose up and Hagar helped me become lighter and clean. I’m like a lily that has come out of the water. My dream is to become a social worker and go back to my hometown.”
Today, Naomi is a strong, happy woman with the biggest smile. She knows she is loved and valued; she is whole again.