A message of hope from Sreynut, a former ragpicker :

A message of hope from Sreynut, a former ragpicker

Portrait of Sreynut, a PSE former student

While Sreynut grew up on the dump, she is now an accomplished professional who carries a message of hope for the children of PSE.

"14 or 15 years ago, I lived on the Stung Meanchey dump, where people dug through the rubbish to find things to sell. I grew up on that dump," recalls Sreynut, moved. "It was really hard because most of us started work at midnight. We'd set off with a big bag and walk from the dump to the market. On the way, we collected rubbish and food that we found in the bins".

Sreynut grew up in the hell of the dump and forced labour. Coming from a background of extreme poverty, she had no hope of a future. "We were so poor that we couldn't buy food or live in a normal place," she explains. "We had nothing, we didn't go to school, we didn't have a house, we lived in a small shelter".

One day, Sreynut's life was turned upside down by a French couple, Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, who were deeply shocked by the horrific sight of the rubbish dump and decided to take action to help the hundreds of little ragpickers who risked their lives every day. "One day, people started giving us food. I was small, so I didn't understand what was going on. I just remember standing in line to get a meal. Later, I saw children in blue and white uniforms. They were all over the dump! Then I learned that, as well as being able to go to school, PSE gave rice to poor families to compensate for the children's work," explains Sreynut.

Christian des Pallières on the dump with child ragpickers

"A teacher came up to me and said: 'Do you want to go to school? You'll get free meals and we'll help your family, we'll give you rice every week'. He often came back to me and said, 'You have to try. Talk to your family. You can't go on living like this.'". That's how the teenager joined PSE. Sreynut was old enough to be in 3rd grade, but she had fallen so far behind that she joined the PSE remedial school, which allows students to catch up on two grades in one year. "It was a really good time in my life," smiles the young woman. "PSE offered me education, food, accommodation and they took care of my family. I was on a remedial course for 4 years and then I got a scholarship from PSE to study at university."

"My best memory at PSE is of the snack breaks. We studied all day, so we had lunch and dinner, but also a snack! We'd have a 20 or 30 minute break and we could sit down and eat together. We'd ask each other questions like: 'What did you learn in biology?' or 'What did you do in maths?' or 'Who wants to play basketball tonight?'. Those are my best memories, because we grew up with nothing! We didn't know what friendship was, or how to have fun... At PSE, we got an education and above all we had friends and we could play!"

Sreynut, former PSE student, at work with one of her colleagues

"A few years ago, I started working in an estate agency. Today, I work for Realestate.com.kh, a very big company in Cambodia. I look after clients from abroad who are looking for a second home. This job requires foreign language skills, knowledge of legislation and patience," explains Sreynut. "Everyone here, including me, wants to be able to help our families. My mother no longer has to work hard and no longer lives in a shelter. We no longer need to survive. So I can say I've made a success of my life!"

Today, Sreynut carries a real message of hope and encouragement for the young people attending PSE. "I'd like to tell them that they should seize this opportunity to have a future. Give your best to PSE! When I was at school, I worked hard, and today I've got where I am. You can do it too. You can take care of your families and your country."

"I have a message for all of you who read my testimonial: thank you for helping us, we really appreciate it. PSE has transformed my life: without the NGO, I wouldn't speak English, I'd never have gone to school and I wouldn't have this job. Thank you!"

A success made possible thanks to sponsorship

Since the beginning of their actions in Cambodia, Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, the founders of PSE, have chosen to rely on sponsorship to ensure the sustainability of the association's programmes. The commitment we make to the children is strong: we lead them from misery to a profession!

The comprehensive care we offer the children is long-term. We commit ourselves to the end and do not leave any child by the side of the road. 

Find out more about sponsorship