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Kristen Cyr
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Tho Mith Chin’s essay ‘Overcoming Poverty’

July 15, 2016

No one wants to be born into a poor family, and no one wants his or her family to be poor.  According to a Global Issue poverty report, at least seventy-five percent of people around the world live in poverty.  Most of them, especially teenagers, complain about living a hard life.  They complain that their poor parents don’t have enough money to meet their needs.  Honestly, like one of those teenagers, I used to feel sad too when my mom didn’t have money to pay for school.  But because of my enormously strong desire, wanting to be a successful man, I didn’t quit school in those hard times.

After my parents were divorced in 2006, my life became more difficult.  My sister and I lived with my mom without any financial help.  My mom decided to have us live with my grandmother because she had to work in another province to earn money to support us.  Still, her monthly salary could not support us, so I had to work part time at a bakery to earn more money.  I remember that I was just twelve years old and studying in grade six in that time.  Doing so for almost a year, I finally graduated from elementary school.  Even though my mom was poor, she loved education and she encouraged me to try very hard and keep going forward.  Though she did not tell me, I knew that she worked at hard jobs to support me.

For years, from grade seven to eleven, I did everything to make sure I could succeed in my studies.  I went to live with my uncle for a year because his house was close to the school.  I then moved to live at the temple with monks and other poor students.  There, I could get extra instruction from monks without paying or paying less than at school.  Sometimes I got free food when I helped them to clean dishes, cook, and perform other tasks.  I remember once I strongly wanted to learn English taught by a monk in the backyard of the temple, but I could not because I did not have money to pay, even though the cost for each student was only two thousand and eight hundred riels, about half a dollar per month.  So every evening before the class started, I hid secretly near the class to listen to him teach, and I sometimes wrote in my book if I could see what he wrote on the blackboard.  Three weeks later, that monk discovered me.  Surprisingly, he told me not to do that anymore and allowed me to study for free.  In addition, he sometimes taught me about computers.  I was so content, not only in my English class but I often did the same thing for other classes, such as math, Khmer Literature, chemistry, and other subjects which I could not pay for.  Excitingly, I was allowed to study without paying after all my teachers knew about what I was doing.  By trying so hard, I was successful in almost every subject.

High school was about to finish; the hardest time was about to come.  Grade twelve was the last class to graduate high school and I had to move to a private school to finish.  The problem was that the school cost one thousand and two hundred dollars a year, yet my family’s income did not get any better.  I still had not gone to school after it had already started two weeks earlier.  My mom got laid off, and she felt very concern when she knew that I still had not gone to school.  So she travelled from another province back home to discuss my school situation with me.  We had a super hard time talking with each other.  Finally, my mom decided to sell our land to pay for my tuition.  She told me that even if she sold the land, she could only pay for my school, but she could not support me with daily expenses, such as food and other things.  Filled with tears, she encouraged me that I could buy as much food as I wanted when once I had a higher education.  While my heart was broken, I was very glad when I knew I could go back to school.  That land was the only property that our family had, plus going to school without money to buy something to eat wasn’t very easy for a seventeen-year-old like me.  Nevertheless, I still did it because at least I could continue my education.  At that time, I promised myself that I would try my very best to succeed in my life and be able to help raise a family. 

It was the year of my legend, 2012.  Even though I lived with other people who gave me only a small space in the kitchen of their house to stay – that house was in front of the school and I had eaten noodles thirty days a month for eight months without any other food, I highly succeeded in my schooling.  I was the top student in the class almost every month for that year, won every school contest, and passed grade twelve very successfully.  At the end of that year, I was announced by the president of Dewey International School, Mr Khem Raeksmey, that I placed first, for outstanding performance, hard work, and earned best student of the school award that year.  I received four certificates at that announcement day.  Since then, I found myself and my purpose.  My life has been moving forward one step to another, day by day, month by month, and year by year.  And now I am living in the United States of America, fighting to achieve my educational goals with the hope of going back to my country, Cambodia, running for Prime Minister to be able to change the leadership system, to develop my country, to help poor people in my country and even other poor citizens in the world.

My inclination to want to be a successful man helped me to stick with completing my education.  Unforgettably, without amazing love from my mom, I would not be where I am today, and thanks to poverty, it actually made me always able to challenge every single obstacle that may come into my life.  One must stop complaining about poverty or about one’s parents because they are poor.  It’s not their fault; they never wanted to be destitute, and their children can rise above that condition, as I have done.

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Last Updated: 8/25/16