Teacher Samath greets each person he meets with his heartwarming smile, making it hard to imagine the struggles that he has faced. Born in Samrang village, Samath grew up without enough food. To supplement the little rice that his family grew, Samath ate snails, frogs, and morning glory - whatever he could find. Even while he was in primary school, he was tending to the fields and ten cows, and he often studied late into the night. By the fifth grade, Samath knew that he wanted to study English, but he did not have the means to do so. Few hourly English lessons began in seventh grade, but within six months, his family could no longer pay the 1.25 USD (5,000 riels) teacher fee.
In tenth grade, Samath moved to Battambang for a better education. He lived with his cousin, whom he helped to sell goods, leaving him little time to study. To supplement what the public school taught him, Samath studied with monks for a year before finally being accepted to the University of Battambang, a lifelong dream of his.
In his final year at university, Samath met Joji Tatsugi, the founder of TASSEL, an encounter that he calls a "miracle". Since then, he has worked tirelessly to help the children and adults of his homeland. Samath is amazed by TASSEL's commitment to serving people in need as well as its approach to truly helping from the heart and caring for each individual according to their unique needs.
This is an excerpt from an essay that Teacher Samath wrote about his life:
"If I had not been born poor, I might not never have understood the need to help. Knowing how it feels to be poor and wanting to help the children in similar situations is my main motivation. It makes me happy to see poor people’s life changed, the way TASSEL changed mine. It is my sincere hope so that they can go and change other people’s lives as well. "