An inspiring testimony to watch
Kosal Souem was one of the first recipients of the Children of the Mekong London Scholarship. Watch his inspiring tale of courage and determination of how he beat the odds and made his dreams come true.
Read the full interview here
Uplifting stories of how people have managed to make their dreams come true. Discover this beautiful testimonial of Kosal. A young man from one of the poorest countries in the world who is done just that, by using his positive mindset alone.
Tell me, where did you grow up? What was life like for you?
Where I was born, there are no electricity or water to supply yet in my village. We used the lake water and we used the fire, to burn the food or oil. Life is so difficult compared to London.
To make it easy for us to understand and for everyone watching. How difficult was it to feed yourself? Money, how tight was it?
When I was young I need to bring the water by myself. Rice and water by myself. I sometimes I take for my family as well every day.
How old were you?
Since I was seven years old I can go, it’s like it was a happy activity for me. It is responsible for me to bring it to my family. I went sometimes with my brother, sometimes alone, sometimes with my father to find it because we need it to support our family. Because is the place for us was born and the environment to which we are adapted.
And you had to do this to have enough food to eat?
One year I didn’t get enough food as well, At that time, basically, Cambodian people, they have rice as food regularly, but that year most families didn’t get a good yield of rice. In my house, we didn’t have rice anymore, my father decides to go to the mountain to find sweet potato for the pot. During that time I was young, maybe 3 or 4 years old. But I still remember this picture.
When was it that you, I think fell in love with education?
Luckily for me, I have an auntie. She studies, in a primary school in maybe grade 6. I am passionate, really passionate to learn because I love learning. I can count the number before I go to school.
Where do you think this hunger to learn comes from?
It’s like inside power from my body. I really want to know a new thing. When I was young I really want to be a scientist. I want to be a space engineering. I want to research the other planets.
So you fell in love with the stars, galaxies and planets. Your school cost money in Cambodia. Books, pens, pencils, uniforms, how did you cope with that? How did you find the money for this?
My family rarely need to buy for me because I got a gift from my school because I get good results from school. So at the end of the year, they give a small gift to the good children. So every year I got it.
So every year, you studied so hard that you came first and won the prize, and that gave you some money?
When you were growing up I read you always dreamed of having a new uniform?
I don’t need to buy a new uniform because my cousin is always dropped it for me and I am happy to get it. I am very happy. I didn’t care about it is old or second hand from my second, it’s new for me. Old for them, but new for me. It’s okay. I never care about something to speak about it.
How hard was it for you to continue studying?
For me, I think I can study without money, even without food because I need to study to reduce my poverty. I need to study to find a new way for my family. I need to study only this way can take me out of poverty, not only me, I can help my family. So no choice. I cannot go to work, because I know if you stop studying, your future will end.
It’s very inspiring to hear how you held onto your dream, tightly to make it come true.
I know that my family did not have an ability to support me, so I must find a scholarship to study in Phnom Penh in university, so I try.
And all that dedication and focus paid off… Because you were then able to get the scholarship from the Children of the Mekong. Tell me about that.
I did an exam at Children of the Mekong and got a good result as well. And with my family situation is very poor, so I got a chance.
How has that changed your life?
Definitely yes, it’s completely changed my life, I’m the first person in my area. I got a scholarship from my university, I got a scholarship from Children of the Mekong as well. It’s really changed my life.
Did you keep, at the hardest moments, to keep studying?
What is that make you kept going?
Despite some difficult situation, like no food, no money but I never gave up because I have a dream. I want to work in engineering. If I want my future to become bright, I need to study… No way, you cannot stop it and get a good future.
And you made that dream come true.
I studied rural engineering at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia. It’s a famous engineering university in Cambodia. Impressive yes. I was excited to study there and spend 5 years to graduate for my bachelor degree and now I got it.
How does it feel inside to achieve something so big?
I am very, very happy and very, very excited. And I have a really strong feeling to get new things and help my family, help my society, help my country.
One of the most powerful things that I am picking up about you is that your incredible positive, and happy personality is a strength that you have.
Positive thinking is very important for yourself. Don’t push yourself to be stressed. Don’t push yourself to the fire. I can stop myself to be hurt because I can control myself. But I cannot control everybody, but I can control myself.
In your darkest moments when you were struggling and you’re doing everything you can to be educated, is it your sense of humour, is it being the joker, the comedian, that’s kept you going?
Nobody can find a solution to sadness and stress, you can skip it and get back and thinking about it consider the problem, take your time, relax and be happy. And then you come back to think about it again. If cannot, you go back again, again and again. Finally, it may be solved.
That is an important message, today as we sit here in London, in a city full of people that are very stressed. I think you have just said there that you can achieve more happiness by being happy than you can from sadness. When you feel sad (everybody does), and when you feel like crying, how do you change yourself?
When I get stressed or sadness. I play football. Sport is one of the things that can reduce your stress or you can find one person to speak it out to.
That is a really powerful insight into how you stay happy. You have now graduated in rural engineering.
What is your dream for the future?
I want to be a project manager of a project in construction because I want to be a businessman. I want to provide happiness to my colleagues. I want to bring new ideas. I want to bring new things, bring new jobs to Cambodia’s people.
How important has it been to be here in London to experience this thanks to the Children of the Mekong charity?
I had a dream to take a plane, because I stay in Phnom Penh every night before I got to bed I heard a plane cross my house so I have really wanted to take a plane before I die, now I got it.
What’s your message to any other young person anywhere in the world including Cambodia?
You should find the benefit of your problem… don’t be sad. You should find the opportunity from it use the thing to develop yourself.
So never, ever give up on your dream.
Yes, you should have positive thinking in yourself and find the people you can need to find people, and confide in him, or them because people cannot live alone.
So find a good support network of good friends that you can depend on.
Kosal, it’s been an absolute pleasure, your parents must be so proud of you.
Kosal has started work as a site manager in a construction company in Phnom Penh and still finds time to play football.
Every young person deserves a chance to go to school. If you’d like to help more young people like Kosal, do get in touch.