Friday, November 18, 2016

Cambodian teenager defies disability and campaigns for a better world

By Chansereypich Seng

Sokim addresses the audience at the Krousar Thmey foundation’s ‘Theory of Change’
workshop held in Siem Reap recently.
Photo supplied by Veasna Kya

On the 20 November annually, the world celebrates Universal Day of Children – the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and a day specifically dedicated to children across the globe.

To mark this special yearly event, UNICEF Cambodia would like to introduce you to Seamsokim So, an intelligent and optimistic student who has made great progress in his personal and academic life despite the loss of his sight.

Nineteen year-old Sokim is a grade 10 student who attends the Krousar Thmey foundation – a non-profit organization that provides care for underprivileged children – and Hun Sen Phnom Penh Thmey High School in Phnom Penh.

He is also a Krousar Thmey representative for UNICEF Cambodia’s Youth Representative Group.
In this role, he works with other young people to give adolescents a voice in their collective campaign to prevent violence against children.

Although he was born with vision, this was impaired because of cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision.

A doctor told him he would eventually lose all sight at around the age of 50. However, he prematurely went blind in a freak accident when he tripped over and hit his head onto a fan.

Despite this disability, Sokim has a passion for learning and with the cooperation of his parents and the support of Krousar Thmey he has acquired deep knowledge and skills.

He can read through Braille, type on a specially adapted computer and speak English as a second language.

This thirst for knowledge led to his relationship with UNICEF.

As an outstanding student with a bright personality, he was selected to host various events, including an association with UNICEF as a representative of the Krousar Thmey organization.

He said: “I got some basic knowledge before I volunteered with UNICEF. However, I found out other skills of mine improved after being attached to the organization.

 “I have developed capacity building, gained more insights about children and improved my public speaking skills.

“In the long run, UNICEF has expanded me in many ways. I have enhanced my capabilities in society and also contributed to future generations, who are the children of Cambodia,” he said.

Sokim said he has encountered barriers to progress such as bullying and discrimination.

“Of course, it [discrimination] exists. But I’m just thankful that I’ve got a lot of love and support from my family, teachers and friends,” he said.

“Even after I lost my eye sight, I have gained vision”

Despite this past bad experience, Sokim exudes an air of confidence and positivity for the future.

“I’m still young and studying. But I am happy. My parents are being supportive, as well as my school. Even after I lost my eye sight, I have gained vision.

“This allows me to build critical thinking skills as well as analyzing. I have also received a great education.

“My life motto is: vision is the powerful second eye that allows me to always push forward.”

When asked what he sees himself doing in 10 years, Sokim said: “First, I want to be self-sustained, with a good standard of living, along with other young people.

“Then, I want to be an English teacher after completing my grade 12.

“For my long-term career, I want to become a politics author.”

Sokim’s hope is for every child in Cambodia, irrespective of their background, to live in harmony with a quality education, emotional support and well-being.

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