Born into a poor family in Tapor village, Svay Rieng province, a man to be featured in this week’s Behind the Success has struggled in his life to make his dream come true. Sok Sidon, whose parents are farmers, is now working as a reporter for the Cambodia Daily newspaper. He is also a founding executive of an organization known as Youth Partner in Development and Peace (YPDP).
Sidon is the second child among eight siblings. When he was in primary school, he had to get up around 4am to walk to school about 10 kilometers from his house. Due to the long distance, he was usually not able to attend the class on time.
“When I was in grade 5, I decided to leave my family to stay in a pagoda because the school was very far from my house, my family has financial problem, and there is no enough food for all members in the family,” he said.
He returned home after spending three years living in pagoda. He did not know about English until he was in grade 8. He became interested in the language, so he decided to take a private class after school. He tried to practice what he had learned as much as possible. “Whenever I saw foreigners visit my hometown, I really wanted to have conversations with them,” he said. “I always be the first to ask them using what I had learned in class because if they asked me first, I would not be able to understand and know how to respond,” Sidon reminded his past with laugh.
His family condition did not improve much while his expense in studying was getting higher. This made the little boy take his free time from studying and farming to sell balloonwhenever any ceremony was celebrated in his village until midnight to earn extra money to support his family. “Some nights I did not have time to sleep because I had to sell balloons and then reviewed lessons when coming back home,” he said while he was looking at the ground, adding that, “although I was very busy, I always kept a book with me.”
As a non-governmental organization Rural Economic Development Association (REDA) was founded in his hometown, Sidon then realized a great opportunity was at his sight. He was in grade 10 at that time, and he also started volunteering as a health trainer in REDA responsible conducting many workshops about HIV/AIDS awareness by then. After one year with REDA, he left for Population Service International (PSI) as peer educator and promoter for the Prevention of Reproductive Health Diseases and HIV/AIDS for almost a year.
Sidon finished high school in 2004, but his parents did not allow him to continue his study because of family’s living condition. He said that he loved studying very much, so he had to find jobs to save money for his bachelor degree. He joined the Khmer Youth Association (KYA) as a Peace Trainer and worked as a construction worker with his father on the weekend.
In 2007, Sidon left KYA and his hometown for a job as a partner with Swedish youth, and it is an opportunity for him to pursue his study in Phnom Penh. In the same year, he was selected to join Youth Partner in Development (YPD) program shifting between Cambodia and Sweden for six months—3 months in Cambodia and 3 months in Sweden.
After that, he worked as both a teacher and a hub master at the American Assistance for Cambodia & Japan Relief for Cambodia (AAFC & JRFC) for around 3 years in Takeo province, which is roughly 140 Kilometers far from Phnom Penh. Having been committed to both job and study, Sidon worked in Takeo from Monday to Friday and came back to study in Phnom Penh on Saturday and Sunday. He said, “Sometimes, I am exhausted; however, I never give up.”
Sidon started his career as a reporter for the Cambodia Daily newspaper in January 2011 after being guided by the founder of the newspaper.
Working in the Cambodia Daily, he reports all the issues in Cambodian society such as child’s right abuse, labor disputes, domestic violence, crimes, social beneficiary events, which render values for human beings, social welfare, justice, development and peace, etc.
Even though Sidon nowadays gets success with a well-paid job, he still has a high ambition. “I would do anything I could to develop my country, and I would like to see my country be equipped with good governance, development, and peace,” said Sidon, adding that he like to work with youth exchanging his experiences.
Finally, he advises: “Be a youth, one should study hard, have strong commitment and self-confidence along with self-respect, struggle in life, have plan and never give up.”