18 Years with Friends – Buntha.

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As Friends turns 18 years old today, we join our longest serving staff members who share their memories of joining and working with us over the years… living examples of the truth behind our tagline, ‘Together, Building Futures’, we thank them for their hard work and commitment over the years. Of course thanks also to you, our amazing Friends supporters, who enable us to keep our projects running through your support and donations, and through spreading the word on our work – here’s to the next 18 years!

Buntha had worked with Mith Samlanh/Kaliyan Mith project since 1998. It was with warm wishes (and some tears) yesterday, Tuesday 31st July, Buntha retired after 14 years of service. Buntha began with the Mith Samlanh outreach teams as a Life Skill Educator and most recently held the position of Social Adviser & Training Coordinator/Transitional Home Project Manager at our Kaliyan Mith project in Siem Reap.

How did you come to work at Friends-International?
Fortunately, one day I came across a Mith Samlanh office which at that time was located near Toul Sleng Museum, and I applied to work.

What was your position when you first began with Friends-International and what is your position now?
I started in the position of a Life Skill Educator. Now I’m a Social Adviser & Training Coordinator/Transitional Home Project Manager.

What are your memories of helping to build Friends-International?
Mith Samlanh at that time was not a big project and everybody was working in the social teams. I didn’t know much about the social projects so decided to join the outreach teams. I went out everywhere; to villages and communities introducing Mith Samlanh to villagers, explaining our programs and taking time to teach life skills. It wasn’t long until the villagers seemed familiar with our projects. It was then I was able to create a Peer to Peer Program, selecting responsible parents to be a peer members. Our Peer Program helped us implement work in the communities so I began another Peer to Peer Program but this time focused on youth and opened a youth center called ‘Naga Youth Center’, an Non Formal Education Center filled with educational tools. Even though it was hard work I always remember being happy.

What are the memories of your first day?
The first day at Mith Samlanh I asked myself ‘how long can I work here?’ The children were from such diverse backgrounds but after working with them my sympathy made me forget all troubles and encouraged me to work.


Buntha and Sebastien celebrating Buntha’s contribution to Friends.

How has Friends-International changed since you first began?
Mith Samlanh has changed a lot when compared to the beginning. Now we have good structures and models allowing us to work with the ever increasing number of street children. We can now help reintegrate children to public schools, empower street families with financial support and train parents to take care better care of their children. We now also have good collaboration with government and other NGOs, everyone now knows of Mith Samlanh and Friends-International.

What are the most important/significant things you remember about your time with Friends-International?
The best memories are the times when we work as a team, cooperating with staff from each project to help build staff capacity. And of course, the staff parties each year! I am very proud of myself that I have built a lot of things for the Mith Samlanh project and have played an important role help build the Kaliyan Mith program in Siem Reap.

What is your message for Cambodians & the world about the work of Friends-International?
It is my wish all local and international social staff continue working with us to protect the children, we are doing fantastic work but we can’t do alone, ‘we are together building futures’.

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