Panha: a sponsor child with nowhere to go but up
“Sunrise taught me a lot and makes my future bright. If I hadn’t come here, maybe I wouldn’t have a future.” By former Sunrise sponsor child, Kren Panha.
The dry red streets of Kandal are a far cry from Israel, but for Kren Panha, a former sponsor child with Sunrise Cambodia, a childhood and education with Sunrise has prepared him for anything the world has to offer – an international scholarship is just the beginning.
The 23-year-old university student was studying at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh when he applied for a scholarship for an international exchange in Israel. As a teenager, Panha thought he didn’t have the ability to succeed academically. He wasn’t at the top of the class and never got chosen for scholarships to Australia like his friends did, and he focused more on music, dance and computer class than the other things that are deemed more ‘important’.
Now, he knows that ability is in the eye of the beholder: “I study just as much as them (his friends), I’m as smart as them, but I just have different abilities.” Evidently, his university agreed – he was awarded the year-long, fully funded agricultural scholarship to Israel and is there right now, living his dream and working hard.
Panha came to Sunrise at the age of three. He didn’t know why until his older brother told him that they lived with their Dad’s abusive brother. When a Sunrise community worker found out about their situation, he removed them from the Uncle’s care and into the care of Sunrise so they would be safe. Since then there have been some changes. Relationships have been mended and Panha is now in contact with his family. They all came to the airport to send him off to Israel, tears of pride in their eyes.
But those early years were hard. Being a sponsor child at Sunrise, Panha the chance to grow up like every kid should: happy, healthy, and safe.
“When I was young at Sunrise I like to play piano and I used to play for mom Geraldine when she had guests that came to Sunrise. Piano is my favourite, but I also like to draw a picture and dream about my future and anything else that is possible in my mind.”
Panha was supported the whole way through his education by his ongoing child sponsors in Australia. Although he never met them, they regularly sent him cards and gifts. The idea that someone who he had never even met had so much belief in him really pushed Panha to succeed and gave him the self-confidence to follow his dreams.
A former sponsor child with a bright future
Panha knows he has been lucky to have been sponsored with Sunrise Cambodia. He is also an incredibly humble and down to earth young man. He even feels regret, for what he terms as ‘wasting his time’ in his early years at Sunrise, when he didn’t want to study and just ‘lazed around’ doing whatever he felt like (like most teenagers!). But it’s that down time, the creative hours spent doing what he loved and finding his passions that have made him such a success today.
“Sunrise taught me a lot and makes my future bright. There I learn English, computer, dance. It made me think I could do anything in my future. If I hadn’t come here, maybe I wouldn’t have a future.”
And what does the future hold for Panha?
“When I graduate, I want to have a farm of chickens. I want my own farm or company so I can work for myself.”
Creating this level of independence and aspirations is exactly what child sponsorship and a Sunrise education is all about.
And it helps that Big Mum is fighting for their cause day and night. When Panha received the scholarship to study in Israel he was no longer under the care of Sunrise, but Geraldine wouldn’t let him out of her sight without a parting gift – a passport.
“I want to say thank you to Mum Geraldine. She always try her best to help me and all the Sunrise kids.”
Well done Panha, we’re so proud of you.
We’d like to thank Kren Panha for sharing his story and photos with us and wish him luck for the rest of his time in Israel.
The Sunrise Cambodia sponsorship program is a way for you to have a profound effect on the future of Cambodia. Not only will you give life-changing education to some of the poorest kids in the world, you will also directly transform whole families and communities.