Headmaster of TASSEL
Teacher Noeng stands before a class at the Rattinak School, repeating the sounds of the various ways the letters "ough" can make - a particularly tricky string of the English alphabet. Caring but strict, Noeng pushes his students, knowing of their true potential and encouraging them along the way. The students are rewarded with Noeng's priceless smile, indicating his much-desired approval.
Born in Kampang Cham Province, Noeng was the third of nine children. Two siblings died of illness. Noeng says that growing up, his family's livelihood "depended on the rain". Too little or too much rain could destroy the subsistence farmer family's annual food supply.
Noeng could not attend school during his early years as he had to work on the farm as well as care for the buffaloes.
At the age of ten, Noeng was finally able to school for the first time; however, he had to quit school just four years later since his family could no longer contribute the small fees that were illegally demanded by public school teachers.
At the age of 16, with only four years of schooling, Noeng became a monk where he could receive food as well as education.
But six years later, Noeng had to quit being a monk – even the monks were not receiving enough food. Over the next years, Noeng traveled to various parts of Cambodia in search of jobs. But he was never able to find a job that paid him enough to feed himself, let alone his siblings and parents.
At age 26, Noeng was hopeless. His life was always a struggle, and he felt he would not live long. As a Buddhist monk who had been taught about re-incarnation, Noeng felt that he had to do "good actions" before he died. It was for this reason that he joined an NGO as a volunteer to teach English to poor children, and it was at this NGO that Noeng met Joji, TASSEL's founder, who had just arrived in Cambodia and was in search of people to work with to help this country. Noeng still cannot believe that Joji asked him to be his partner.
Now, Noeng works tirelessly teaching and visiting the poorest children and the elderly daily while continuing to be trained in English.
Noeng is deeply affected by foreigners who share their hearts and noted how important it is for the Cambodian education system to change so that sharing becomes a priority. He believes that only through changing the fundamental ideals of the people can his country move forward.
This is an excerpt from an essay that Teacher Noeng wrote about his life:
"I am so happy with all the actions that Tassel always does for the poor people in Cambodia. The thing I love most about Tassel is they help from a pure heart. I want to help the poorest and the richest people. I think some people never understand about love in Cambodia. They need help from the people and need true love. When the poorest people get some help from Tassel, they are so happy and cry. I understand their feelings. Thank you so much for God that He always helps TASSEL and Cambodians."