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Cambodia: For The Smile Of A Child

Life was bleak for Srin Yor. She had no food, no education and no future. Only one thing kept her going: the garbage dump. But as life would have it, things changed and Yor’s life is now shining at “Pour un Sourire d'Enfant” (PSE), a school supported by the World Food Programme (WFP). 

PHNOM PENH - For years, Srin Yor, 17, had to wake up at five in the morning to fulfill one task: wait for the garbage trucks that discharge rubbish and junk from markets, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and factories at the dump site in Stung Meanchey, a district of Phnom Penh.

“If I did not get up this early, there would be nothing left for me to collect!”, Yor explains. Yor normally skipped breakfast in order to be at the garbage dump early, where she had to endure the stench, whilst digging barefoot in filthy rubbish in search of "valuable" junk. Her day often ended at eleven in the evening.

Srin Yor lives with her parents and her seven siblings in a small hut around the garbage dump of Phnom Penh. Originally from Prey Veng province, her family had sold all their agricultural and residential lands in order to be able to afford both treatment for her ailing father and daily food for her and seven other siblings. They migrated to Kampong Speu province in the pursuit of unoccupied lands before ending up at the garbage dump six years ago.

“My family kept moving in search for just enough food for all of us”, Yor says. “Yet, we never have enough food to eat and sometimes we go to bed with empty stomachs.”

The chance for Yor to go to school was nil. Her elder siblings migrated to Thailand and either only reached third grade in school or never attended school. All they did was worry about where to find their next meal each day.

A New Life At PSE

PSE accelerated learning program posing with their new bags of foodTwo years ago, PSE admitted Yor into its accelerated education programme which allows older children to study two academic levels in one school year. Her admission into the school allowed her hope again for a better life. Yor is in her third year now, attending the integrated academic programme of grade five and six.

“I am very happy that I have the opportunity to study like other children”, Yor says with a smile.

WFP provides Yor with a monthly 10 kg take-home ration of rice, which substantially alleviates her and her family’s worries about having nothing to eat at home and allows her to fully concentrate on her studies.

Through the School Meals Programme, WFP supports more than 1,000 underprivileged children at the PSE school. The programme aims to offer incentives for vulnerable and poor families to get their children to enroll in school, attend class regularly and complete their basic education.