Many of our staff have led extraordinary lives. Chailee is our HR and Admin Manager. This is his story:
Chailee grew up in a family of poor farmers in Northern Cambodia, in one of the first provinces to come under Khmer Rouge control in 1970. The Khmer Rouge closed schools and Chailee’s education ended abruptly when he in grade 5.
Between 1970 and 1979 Chailee worked as a nurse and it wasn’t a bad time for him, he was unaware of the horrors of the Killing Fields and the other atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge until he fled from the Vietnamese Army. It was during this three month flight that he saw dead bodies and learned the truth. It was on this arduous journey that he met Rith Ngoun -the Flame catch-up class teacher. They have been fast friends ever since.
Life in the refugee camp from 1979 to 1983 on the Thai-Cambodia border was the most harrowing Chailee had experienced. It was frightening on the border, with shelling and landmines and little food. In 1983, he moved to another refugee camp and because he knew about medicine was given a job with the International Red Cross. He worked with an interpreter between him and the medical team and when work was over for the day the interpreter would teach Chailee English. For three years following, he worked in the medical clinic in the morning and studied medicine in the afternoon. He gained a United Nations Certificate as a Physician’s Assistant which he was proud of until he found out that the certificate was not recognised by the government and therefore he couldn’t work in medicine.
Chailee also worked as an interpreter for the United Nations, and for other organisations using his strong communication skills. After many years working for NGO’s in Cambodia he retired. He raised 6 children, and currently has 6 grandchildren.
Chailee had previously worked with Sue Hanna and when he heard about Flame, he said ‘I’ve retired, but if you have a need, just let me know!”. Initially, the Flame ‘Full Circle’ seemed strange to Chailee but when he saw slum living children who had grown into leaders, it all made sense.
Chailee finds it exciting to share his ideas and love for children in a new way. Not having a formally recognized education hasn't held him back from helping others. Everyday Chailee prays that God will help Flame help these children become all they can be. He prays for wisdom to speak the right words to the kids and he asks God to bless them.
Chailee with his friend Mr Rith