One hand holds the customer’s hair, the other moves deftly with scissors, as former glue user Srey Phear*, 20, concentrates happily on the new hair style she is creating for her customer. She is employed at a beauty salon near Independence Monument and also studies accounting at the Human Resources University in Phnom Penh.
“My life has been changed and improved by the support of Mith Samlanh NGO, my adoptive parents and my own strong commitment,” she told me.
Mith Samlanh is a Cambodian NGO based in Phnom Penh, which for the past 18 years has worked closely with marginalized children, their families, drug users, people living with HIV/AIDS and poor communities.
Srey Phear became an orphan at 6 years old. Mith Samlanh teams worked with her and supported her, making sure she had food, shelter, clothing and could access education and then vocational training. Mith Samlanh first helped her to study at public school (State school) then when she was 10 years old found adoptive parents for her. When she was old enough she joined Mith Samlanh vocational training, enrolling in the beauty class.
Unfortunately she was persuaded to use glue by her close friends and quickly became addicted. However, with the support of Mith Samlanh she was able to come off the drug in a step by step process.
“If we were addicted with drugs or glue, we would not able to stop immediately because it takes time and strong commitment,” she said.
“What’s good for you guys is to stay far away from all kinds of drugs and try to control the good opportunities that we have such as education.” is her advice.
After that, her life became better. She was able to finish high school and moved on to university under the support of Mith Samlanh, her family and herself.
She said that Mith Samlanh sponsored her with school fees and found her a job. She has now been working at the beauty salon for four months.
“I am very happy since my life has been changed so much,” she said. “Thanks to my adoptive family and to Mith Samlanh,”
Nita, the Case Manager of the Beauty Class at Mith Samlanh said that she was very pleased that a student was able to pursue her studies at the university.
“Mith Samlanh will provide further support for Srey Phear until she has stability in her life. We do hope other students of Mith Samlanh will adopt her good example,” she said.
– story by Menghourng Ngo
*name changed for confidentiality