In 2006, Ponheary began supporting the education of Kroem Pek and Kroem Loh at a the School for Deaf and Blind Children in Siem Reap. Pek and Loh, twins who were eleven at the time, are the youngest in a family of 9 children, 5 of whom are deaf. Now sixteen, they are the first of the five to attend school, and are currently finishing the fourth grade.
Ponheary met the twin’s family through an international development NGO that worked in their village and sponsored the twins’ education during their tenure. When the NGO finished its work in the village, Ponheary began to sponsor the twins so that they could continue to attend a boarding school for the deaf and blind in Siem Reap, run by an NGO called Kruorsa Thmei. Their family produces bamboo baskets. They receive cash advances to buy the materials, but rarely earn enough to pay back their debt. Their older siblings have not been able to attain an education, but all support the family business.
Recently we went to visit Loh and Pek at school. They returned with us to visit the family at the guest house, stocked up on new uniforms and school supplies, and received an informal sewing lesson with Srei Ly, who taught them how to hem their new pants.
In addition to providing uniforms for the twins through the PLF, Ponheary pays for their transportation to and from school. Every two weeks, the students return home to be with their family. The school is about 40km from their family’s home in Svai Tchek Village, located in Ankgor Thom district. The boys driver comes all the way from their home village so that Ponheary and their family can ensure that they arrive and return safely. The round-trip motorcycle ride in one direction costs 30,000 reih (or about $15 each trip).
While this is quite expensive by local standards, their ability to return home regularly is a big part of their success. If they were unable to see their family on a regular basis, they would be much less likely to stay in school. This way, they are able to be a part of the family, and to contribute—not only to the business, but to their brothers and sisters education. They bring back their new knowledge to share with their siblings.
The PLF has decided to integrate this special project directly into the Foundation’s work, so that we can ensure that Loh and Pek continue learning and teaching.