“Education can make a positive change for a better society”

Yem Khlok was born in Cambodia in 1979, at a time when the country was still raw from conflict. The Khmer Rouge regime was toppled that same year, but the damage from the civil war would be keenly felt for many years to come. With much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, education for children like Yem was challenging.

“My primary school was set up in an empty house whose owner had been killed in the war,” says Yem. “Many children dropped out altogether. There was a lot of pressure for children to work as soon as possible to support their families. Many people couldn’t see the benefit of education.”

But for Yem, education was everything. He was determined to keep going, despite the difficulties he faced.

“Sometimes we didn’t have enough food to eat,” he says. “But I felt like if I could get through the hardship and challenges of life, then I could finish high school successfully. It gave me extra motivation.”

Yem’s determination saw him achieve his goal, and after he finished school, he successfully applied for teacher training college. He had made it – with school qualifications and a good job to his name. But something inside him still wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to do more – specifically, he wanted to help others. That’s when he saw the advertisement for a role at a new children’s charity in the area – Child’s Dream.

Child’s Dream is a charitable, not-for-profit association supporting children and young adults related to health, education, leadership, sustainability, peace and justice, co-founded by Daniel Siegfried and Marc Jenni (whose story you can). In 2009, Child’s Dream was firmly established in Lao PDR and Thailand, but was ready to expand its operations to Cambodia.

“As soon as I met Marc and Daniel, I knew they shared my passion that education can make a positive change for a better society,” says Yem. “I think my childhood gave me a good insight into what children needed. It felt like fate to find Child’s Dream, and I have been working there now for 14 fantastic years.”

In those 14 years, Child’s Dream has built schools and boarding houses, provided scholarships to high school students and university students, run school health initiatives, provided water systems and playgrounds, and supported vocational training centres. The impact for children and the local communities has been significant.

“It’s not just building the schools, it’s building whole communities,” says Yem. “It’s a community spirit and a shared understanding about the importance of education. And it’s sustainable. We are not only helping marginalised children, but helping them to support themselves, their families and their communities throughout their lives.”

Child’s Dream in Cambodia goes from strength to strength and the organisation has bold plans for the future. In the meantime, Yem has a message for all those involved in the Children’s Walk.

“I just want to say thank you for choosing Child’s Dream as a charity partner,” he says. “The support you provide has a direct impact on the life of every single child who comes through these centres. Thank you.”

Child’s Dream is just one of the many children’s initiatives in developing countries that Roche supports through Re&Act – the independent charity that manages the donations raised from the Children’s Walk.

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