I am Sarem and my father is Ram. My full name is Sarem Ram. I am 32 years old. I was born in 1987 in a small village called Kampong Chamlorng, Banan District, Battambang Province. My mother gave birth to seven children; one daughter and six sons, including me. I am fourth among my siblings. My parents are farmers. They work under the hot sun to support our livings. My family moved to Jeepan when I was ten years old. We moved because of family situations. When we were in Kampong Chamlorng, my parents could not earn for a living by growing crops on a very small farm behind the house. Many problems occurred. There were too many insects destroying the crops and we were unable to afford pesticides and fertilizer, the soil was not rich, crops did not grow well, there was a lack of jobs, and there were many children in the family. Those were clear reasons as to why my family moved to Jeepan, the village where my family and I used to live in a dense forest, the place where I used to be a bushman, the place without a toilet, with no clean water, no clean food, no electricity, no music at night except frogs, toads, and insects’ crying every night. Despite this,, it was a memorable place where I grew up and started to see the new world in my life.
Life before TASSEL. It was like a dark world in my mind. My life was full of problems. I did not have enough food and the food that I had was not nutritious for my health. I just ate to satisfy my sad stomach and although I knew the food was not clean or safe, I had no choice. As a result of that diet, my brain and health were affected. I was sick very often. My brain did not work well and I kept losing my memory. It took so long for me to memorize a short lesson. I could not get good grades and as a result, I failed my 12th-grade exam. I was about to choose to die for my suffering life. I could not believe that I had failed. The family situations were bad, but my 12th-grade exam result was even worse. I was on the fence, I did not know what to do next. I was a very hopeless man and I was so ashamed to go to school again. I had seen so many selfish people. Teachers charged students a lot of money through giving some extra classes. Students cheated on exams. Those who joined the extra classes got good grades, they got answers from the teachers beforehand. I was ignored, hated by other teachers because I did not have any money for them. I became a very lonely man at the time. Instead of going to attend the extra classes that I could not afford, I spent a lot of time reading books and asking other students questions that I did not understand or know the answers to. I liked asking questions to the students who went to the extra classes because they had learned a lot more from the teachers. I knew it took time, and when other students thought I bothered them. I used to say “sorry” and go away when they were unhappy to answer my questions. Fortunately, with my best efforts, I passed the 12th-grade exam in 2009. I cried because I could not believe that I had achieved my dream.
Life at TASSEL. About four years ago, I talked to Teacher Joji, Teacher Noeng, and Teacher Samath. I talked to them about the situations of the villagers, especially the children and old people. I grew up in Jeepan and I have known and understood clearly the call for help from the village. I taught the students at TASSEL Rattinak five years ago, and also at TASSEL Samrang. I have seen with my own eyes how much love, hope, and care that TASSEL has done to change Cambodia and its people. TASSEL is not only for an English education but also for transforming people’s hearts. I have learned so much from TASSEL volunteers (high school students and adults). I am a teacher for my students, but also a student for my personal teachers. In the summer, the TASSEL volunteers come to teach Cambodian teachers and students in local villages. They do family visits. They try to learn, understand, and serve the poor in this country. TASSEL is all about the heart. TASSEL transforms from one’s heart to thousands’. TASSEL serves the poor who desperately need help. TASSEL gives love to suffering people. TASSEL is a very good family for the poor. I have received a lot of love since I started working with TASSEL. I have become more responsible, helpful, patient, generous, thankful, grateful, sensitive, and positive because of TASSEL. I can bring a lot of help to the children and villagers through TASSEL. The villagers’ hearts have been transformed through the love, care, hope, and education that TASSEL has been giving from the very beginning. As an example, my father, Ram, gave a piece of land to TASSEL. He helped build classrooms for TASSEL for free. His heart was obviously transformed because he has seen how great TASSEL is. The children in my village have the opportunity to study English for free. The people who are starving can eat better now. Sick people can get help with medical treatments. TASSEL changes people in a very special way that other organizations cannot do. Through TASSEL, I got the answer to my question “How can the poor help the poor?” It does not matter how small or big the help and love you give to the poor is. Every success and change come from your pure heart!