Vannak featured in Project Compassion 2013.
I started to learn new things and those new things significantly changed my perception about the project and my personal life”Vannak
Vannak, 17, and his family live in Andong Village, the largest slum in Cambodia. Home to approximately 8,000 people, Andong was established in 2006 when the inhabitants were driven from their homes to make way for development.
When he was 15, Vannak left school to support his family. Around the same time, in the hopes of achieving a better life, his parents had borrowed money. So every week he would give most of his 12,000 Riels (US$3) a day earnings to them.
Although he was helping his family, Vannak felt a sense of hopelessness and knew that he could end up in a youth gang, passing time by drinking alcohol and gambling.
“Adults thought I was useless ... However they sometimes praised me as a good boy because I was helping my parents to pay off their debt.”
When he heard about the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), which is run by Caritas Australia partner, Youth for Peace, Vannak decided to give it a go. Designed to provide life skills and vocational training such as handicrafts, gardening and small business, the goal of YEP is to increase youth employment, as well as build a sense of responsibility and solidarity.
At first, Vannak wasn’t focused on learning; he was so hungry that what he most looked forward to was eating the food provided! However it didn’t take long for his hunger to grow for something else – learning; in particular silk screen printing and gardening.
On behalf of the youth in Andong Village, I would like to thank the Australian people for their generosity and continuing support. I wish them good health.” Vannak