- 17 September 2013
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Siem Sreivuoen is 18 years old and lives in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. She is benefiting from an inspirational vocational training programme run by SCIAF's partner organisation, Caritas Cambodia. The programme provides young people like Siem with skills to earn a living and also encourages them to help others in their community. Siem’s studying to become a beautician. We asked her to describe her daily life and the issues affecting young people in Cambodia:
I was born in Phnom Penh and have always lived in the same little wooden house. It consists of two rooms, one up and one down. In the downstairs room there is a small kitchen and toilet, and a place to wash.
I have three brothers and one sister. I am the second oldest. My big sister is 21 and works at a garment factory. The younger brothers, aged 16, 15 and 13 do not go to school. They just hang out on the streets all day, though myself, I went to school until grade 5. I dropped out when I was 14. I am a bit concerned about my younger brothers and the fact they don't go to school. My father died 6 or 7 years ago, so we are very poor. My mother is the main earner, and she sells mango pickles (which she makes at home) in front of a factory. My older sister contributes to the household income.
I heard about the Caritas beauty course and was accepted. I am new, and have only done one customer so far, and the rest of the time I practice on my friends. I go to the beauty shop 6 days a week. For leisure I like to go dancing with my friends. I am very short, and shy, so I often feel self-conscious and won't get up to dance in case people laugh at me.
On Sundays I stay home and wash clothes. I must wash my brothers' clothes too. My mother asked them to wash their own clothes, but they refuse. There is a big problem with young people in Cambodia today. Unemployed youth start fights in the home and there are many arguments. This is what I see at my neighbours’ as well as in my own home. Kids often steal from their own parents. I miss my father greatly, and get sad whenever I hear a song he used to sing, about rice in the paddy field. He used to be a mechanic, and if he were still alive our situation would be much better.
I get up around 7 am, wash and dress and have a breakfast of rice, then go to the beauty shop on my bicycle. I come home at 11:30, prepare food for my brothers, then at 1 pm go back to the beauty shop, until 5 pm. The beauty shop is 15 minutes away by bicycle. “In the evenings I also cook for my mother and brothers. My mother does the shopping, and gets up at 4 am to go to the market.
Photo: Sean Sprague