Fishing Boat Boy Becomes Community Leader

Read the story of Wandy Long - Flame Activity Centre Leader at Steung Meanchey

Wandy (Photo creds Esther So)

Wandy (Photo creds Esther So)

I grew up on a boat in a fishing family right by the Killing Fields. My father caught fish and my mother sold it in the market. My family wanted me to go to school, but I didn’t actually start until I was 9 years old. Then, instead of attending school, my friends took me to the Russian Market to go begging and “fanning foreigners”. Back in the day, foreigners in the market would be so hot they would pay my friends and I to fan them! All the while, my parents thought I was at school!

Life on a boat

Life on a boat

I remember being so excited when someone gave me $1 - it was so much money! I only went to school erratically and spent most of my time begging or stealing which was easier than being in class. One time I crawled under someone’s chair at a wedding and stole a whole case of beer from right under the seat!  I stole shoes from the old ladies praying at the Pagoda, and looted the collection money from the offering box too. It’s hard to believe I was so naughty.

One day, I happened upon some kind American people who asked why I was not at school. They took me to church and found a family to sponsor me to go to school. I still might have gone begging except they kept a close eye on me and made sure I was actually going to school. To this day I am so very thankful for these people. 

When I finished high school I didn’t go to University but I got a job teaching Khmer to foreigners. Despite the fact that I found this job very stressful and difficult, I ended up sticking with it for seven years. I then became a social worker and taught maths and English at another NGO before working for Flame. I currently lead the Activity Centre, I teach and encourage the kids.

I’m now married with a little boy. My wife sells sugar cane and I love her very much. I play the guitar with my young son and he sings his heart out! 

The fun people at Surfside Christian Life Centre in Raglan New Zealand, have been supporting my position at the Flame Activity Centre at Steung Meanchey. They have invited me to go to NZ next month to meet them in person, share my story and attend the 2018 Life Conference in Auckland. This is such a cool opportunity for me, I can’t wait!

I will be at Surfside on both the 22nd and 29th April if you would like to come and meet me, and hear me share my story. Please contact for more info.


There are now 45 kids at the Flame Steung Meanchey Centre