by Lori Carlson

The children at our schools are truly astounding in their tenacity, their enthusiasm and ability to learn. They suffer under the mantle of poverty from birth,  but inspire us every day with their cheerful smiles and light-hearted approach to life. Every once in a while I feel compelled to tell the story of just one of them. This is the story of my friend and role model Soy Sen.

Computer genius Soy Sen (r) and his best friend Siv Chhinh receive much-deserved awards at Tchey School

A few years ago we started a fledgling computer lab at Tchey school with some One Laptop Per Child computers that were donated by a Josh Milligan, a long-time supporter of Tchey School. One student, Soy Sen, was in that first class. He has since graduated from Tchey and is now in secondary school. He did quite well in the computer program and in fact became so good at it that he and fellow student Siv Chhinh became teacher’s assistants in the computer lab, helping teacher Thoeung Rithy manage his roster of over 60 students. They single handedly managed the class of the youngest students who took the computer I class during the whole of the 2009-10 school year.

Soy Sen is an orphan and spends an inordinate amount of time in the computer lab. His idea of a fun evening is typing up lesson plans for his teacher and studying the finer points of excel spread sheets. These days, there isn’t much he doesn’t know about every program on the computers, both on the OLPC linux machines and the Windows desktops.

The following is the first document Soy Sen typed on his OLPC machine two years ago when he was in grade 6:

Soy Sen at home in 2008

My name is Soy Sen. I am 15 years old. I am a student. I study at Chey primary school in grade 6. I like to study English and computer. I live in Chey Village. I have two brothers and two sisters. I had not parent, my father dead in 2003 and my mother dead in 2001. I was cold when I saw others had parent take care look at me no parent look after. I just had my brother instead of parent I love my older brother. I always think about my brothers and my sisters. I know they do hard work for find some money support me and buy some rice and some food. My brothers are Mr. Som right now he studies in grade 8 at Som Dach Ouv high school. He can not help me because he busy study like me. We have another brother support us he is a worker. For our older sisters had do the work at the border but now we had never seen the news from them.  So nowaday in my home have three people. This home is not belonging to us. We ask my uncle for live in part time when they want to do some things on it. We will move more also. My house is small, small family and very poor. I have my good fiend and good teacher. I am the best student with the computer and Khmer. I had the test and am number 1 this year the many students love me. My brother likes to eat jack fruit, for me like to eat banana and custard apple. I had not some money to buy it and some time no rice and fish. I am a student poor but I am very happy because I have a pretty school, good teacher and good friends. Every day I like to study computer, English and Khmer. I thank teacher Rithy so much. I thank lori so much that give the computer for us study. I wish teacher Lori and teacher Rithy have a good luck, success full with their works and happiness all the time. We love you so much.In my free time I like to read the Khmer story, English book and write some things in English on the computer at school. When I had free time I can see teacher Rithy at school I ask him type the X.O at there, I will ask him when I don’t understand. In future I want to be a teacher computer. Teacher can teach many children. I want to speak with tourist. I want to see many tourist come to my school. Teacher Lori is good teacher and help us to study long time. Bless to you have a good luck, good health and prosperity. Sorry if I have a mistake.

We were very happy indeed to reward Sen and Chhinh with heaps of accolades at the graduation ceremony this year and look forward to their continued assistance and leadership in the computer lab.

“To teach is to learn twice.”