For 2,000 years Cambodia’s civilization absorbed influences from India and China and, in turn, transferred them to other Southeast Asian civilizations. From the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Funan and Chenla (1st–8th century) through the classical age of the Angkor period (9th–15th century), it held sway over territories that are now part of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The Khmer (Cambodian) empire reached its apex in the 12th century, a time marked by the construction of the massive temple complexes known as Angkor Wat and Bayon and the imperial capital of Angkor Thom. Following 400 years of decline, Cambodia became a French colony and during the 20th century experienced the turmoil of war, occupation by the Japanese, postwar independence, and political instability. Between 1975 and 1979 the country was devastated by the reign of the Khmer Rouge, a rural communist guerrilla movement. During the Khmer Rouge’s period of power, at least 1.5 million Cambodians were killed or died, a monumental tragedy from which the country still suffers.
Behind all this pain, suffering and tragedy there are unsung heroes desperately trying to reverse the damage that decimated this beautiful country.
One those heroes is a man named Rady Rure, I would like to share his story with you.
This is Rady's story.
April 15th 1982 was the day I was born and Cambodia was in Turmoil, Sathéaranakrâth Pracheameanit Kâmpŭchéa; The Vietnamese Occupation of Cambodia. I came from very humble beginnings, born into a poor family deep in rural Cambodia, a place called Thnol Chak Village. My father was in the military, I had 1 older brother named Chinda and my mother took care of us. As time went by my mother and father were separated, my father was away with the military and my mother moved to Kampong Thom.
It was 1987, my brother was 7 and I was 5 our parents went missing, we were alone. Still misery and war, the country had recovered just enough to live a drastically impoverished life under a less than draconian but still oppressive regime. What a time to be an orphaned child!
Me and my brother Chinda stuck together, we were homeless orphans with no relatives so we had to stick together, we only had each other. We labored on rice farms in exchange for food and shelter, most nights though we had to sleep under big trees and during the winter we sheltered with cattle as we did not have sufficient clothing or blankets. We struggled but we stuck together and survived.
1992, a much better year for Cambodia. The United Nations Transition Authority occupying the country to restore peace and civil government after decades of civil war and cold war machinations but I knew no different I was 10 years old and my only daily thoughts were survival. Then one day I saw many children walking towards a building, I was curious so I followed them. We arrived at a school, I tried to pass through with the others but I was stopped. The teachers forbid me from entering, I was nothing more than an orphan, no parents or relatives I was nobody, who had nothing except a strong determination to survive.
I followed the other children every day and every day the same thing happened, I would get stopped from entering. But I stayed outside and watched the teaching activities through the holes in the walls. A month went by when an elderly man came to me. He was the director of the school he spoke to me and asked, “Who are you?”. So I told him my name and that I was an orphan, my parents went missing and I have nowhere to live. Then he asked me if I wanted to study, and of course I said yes. He then put me on his bicycle and rode to the market where he bought me a book, a pencil alongside a school uniform and flip-flops.
Since that day I never once missed a school session, I was eager to learn and now had a much stronger determination. I changed, I developed into a very well behaved boy and was the smartest in my class. My brother did not go to school, instead he worked to provide food for him and I, which is something I will never forget.
1998, from despair to hope. Cambodia had a much brighter outlook, bearing a cautious optimism the 1998 Elections were deemed a success. The Khmer Rouge rebellion came to an end and a coalition government was formed. This is the year I finished primary school, this is also the year I found a book called, ’60 hours learn English by yourself’. When I was 18 I joined high school and out of the 3000 students only I could speak English, I started to teach my classmates and other high school students English while also working part-time as a coconut tree climber.
I have had many difficulties in my life, more than I care to describe. My childhood was taken away from me after losing my parents at a very young age, my living conditions were terrible and the hardships I have endured are almost unimaginable.
This is why I started The Cambodian English School of Higher Education, if I can give these children and many others the same chance that I had but a lot more than just free education, then I know that everything I endured was worth it.
I know the paths these children walk, the dangers & obstacles these children face on a daily basis and I know that it does not have to be this way. It just takes one person to change their lives like mine was changed by 1 person, each and every one of us have the power and knowledge to make this world a better place, to do something that can make a difference. Just 1 person, but together we can change the world.
In 1998 Rady found his father and discovered he remarried as so did his mother. Rady's father is now Suffering tremendously in a local intensive care unit.