Rachanah and Visal

    My name is Visal, and like most children in Cambodia, I had to turn to my mother to ask how old I am. She told me that I’m 13 years old and that my birthday is sometime in August, a detail often forgotten because it is just like any ordinary day. My sister, Rachanah, recalls that she is 9 years old. Together, we live in  with our parents, who work in construction.

My mother and father work for a contractor, and are only employed when projects are underway. They usually work 20 days per month, earning $4.50 - $5 each day. My mother normally can find work only 9 or 10 months of the year, earning a total of $130 for each. She buys rice every day, but we often cannot afford to buy any. For those 4 or 5 days each month, we must borrow from our neighbors and pay them back quickly. My mother picks vegetables from bushes in our village and my father catches fish for our meals. Sometimes my mother will pick the bitter moringa leaves to eat, and I happily eat the food, although I do not enjoy the taste.  

We all try very hard to help the family, but we often have little to eat. I do my best to work as hard as I can. I cook  fried rice for my family; sometimes, we eat leftover fried rice for breakfast from the night before. I spend two hours each day before school in my neighbor’s land picking morning glory, which I give to my grandmother to sell in the market. I also started to grow my own morning glory in our small yard, caring for my crops and picking them when they’re ready.

Both my sister and I attend the TASSEL School and study hard to learn English. I am learning quickly and receiving higher and higher marks in my class. I hope to continue studying and discovering new ways to help my family.