My name is Hut Vanna. I’m from Cambodia. I was born in Siem Reap Province, Kralanh District. My birthday is on September 2nd. I have five siblings in my family: four brothers and one sister. Unfortunately, eight years ago, when I was 18, my older brother—the fifth child— drowned. So, now I have only four siblings. My life has been full of struggles and challenges. My father passed away when I was only 6 months old. I remember when I was 7 years old, my mum played an important role among the 6 of us children. She worked tirelessly for us; she started a small shop to sell fish and different kinds of vegetables in order to earn money to support us and provide us the opportunity to study in primary school. Realizing the burden that our mum carried, my brothers, sister, and I also worked extremely hard. We often went to rice fields to catch fish to sell. I was always so happy when I caught lots of fish. Some of my favorite foods when I was younger were crickets, snakes, snails, and spiders; I loved to eat them the most.
When I turned ten years old, my mum had no ability to help us anymore due to her illness. My older brothers moved to Thailand to work as construction workers and my older sister moved to a rural area called Samlot, where the Khmer Rouge ended, and she took me along with her. My sister and I got there in 2004. We both stayed with my aunt, who was a former Khmer Rouge soldier. She was very kind to me. However, life was very difficult in Samlot. My sister and I worked hard on the farm; we grew green beans, peanuts, and cassavas to earn our living. However, unluckily, a big flood completely damaged my sister’s crops one year. Having no other way to continue paying the money we owed to microfinance companies annually, I decided that I needed to drop out of ninth grade and move to Thailand to earn money. Once there, I stayed with my older brother who was married with two children. My job was to sell water and sweep trash around parking lots near the Khmer-Thai border. I worked very hard there, and I was able to send some money to my sister and my mum every month.
Two years later, I had to make a decision on whether or not I should go back to school the following year. After long contemplation, I realized that education was necessary for my life, so I asked my sister if I could restart my ninth grade. She agreed to my request, but she struggled to earn enough to help me achieve my goal. After I finished 9th grade, I went to Battambanng to continue high school education. After I graduated from high school in 2015, I applied for a Scholarship at Dewey International University. Fortunately, I got a full-ride scholarship. At that time I felt relieved because I didn’t have to pay for the school fees. When I was a freshman, I took time to work in catering at a restaurant. I did not only serve food, but also cooked for the customers. That’s why I am good at cooking now. I worked for that restaurant for one and a half years, but I later quit that job because the shop owner required me to work from 5PM - 1AM every day, which was impossible for me because I needed more time to study on weekends. Therefore, soon after, I began working for a hotel in Battambang city for one year. I had a lot of responsibilities, but I loved my job because the owner taught me many things. While I was working at the hotel, I heard from two friends—Teacher Dalin and Teacher Sakana— about TASSEL.
After I got to know what TASSEL was about, I became very interested and quickly applied to become an English teacher at TASSEL. I have been with TASSEL for one year now, and TASSEL has transformed me. TASSEL gives me love and teaches me to share love with others. TASSEL not only loves the poor in Cambodia but also helps them. Honestly speaking, the TASSEL teachers are extremely kind to me. They have taught me from their heart. I can’t believe that such kind human beings exist. To me, TASSEL plays an important role in saving lives.