Streetkid becomes Leader

My name is Houn Thy, and I am the Flame Activity Centre Leader at Sensok.

When I was a little kid I was obsessed with food... let me tell you why.

My father died when I was little, I don’t remember when, and my mother looked after me and my four brothers as best she could. She worked in the jungle cooking for soldiers and would visit us about once a month. I became an orphan when I was quite little, I suppose I was about six. My mum was cutting long grass and a landmine exploded and killed her. I was devastated. Our eldest brother became the head of the home and took charge of us, venting his anger on us, ruling over us with an iron fist.  He was downright mean and violent, and hit us and threw things at us. I was scared of him, so after a while I just took off.

I ran away and lived near the market where I would scavenge for food or beg from the stall owners. I slept wherever I could, sometimes in front of peoples shops under the eaves. Some people were quite kind and gave me edible bits and pieces. I remember being woken up with a bucket of water, being shooed away like a stray dog. A gang of big boys found me and threatened to burn me with cigarette butts or punch me if I didn’t find money for them, so I had to up my game and get smart, or get hurt. I figured out how to steal car insignia and sold them so I would have money to give the gang.

I still have scars where they burned me when I didn’t manage to find the money.

When I was living on the street, I made friends with another boy and we became like brothers, we would beg and find food together.  He told me about a modern place in Phnom Penh where they gave food away to street kids, there was a place to live and it was safe, but I was too scared to actually go. My life was pretty bad, but at least I knew where I was!  Later he suggested again that we go to the big city together on the train, tempting me with stories of limitless food and a comfy bed. Although I was scared at the idea of leaving everything familiar to me, I was so hungry all the time, I decided to risk it and go.

We went on the train together, and split up to beg and look for food on the long overnight journey. I totally panicked when the train finally pulled into the station at Phnom Penh and I was still separated from my friend. I got off the train with my heart beating loudly in my little chest, an ocean of people pouring onto the platform before me. I was totally lost and afraid. 

To read the rest of Houn Thy's story click here