On a very hot muggy evening in February 2010 with my translator Racksmey at my side, I sat with Phounam on the earthen floor of her house in her village in Battambang. We shared a dinner of rice, fish and veggies as I recall, a little plastic fan whirring away in an attempt to cool us off. She had a radiant smile and a spirit that transcended our language impasse. Yes, she had been a collector of trash, specifically recyclables to bring home a few dollars for the family before she went off to the circus school, Phare Ponleu Selpak. There she learned to be an acrobat,and as she now states in perfect English a ” circus artist”.
I consider my meeting Phounam to be one of the most fortunate and enriching experiences of my life. She now is fulfilling her dream to live in the United States and to study so she can go back to her homeland, educated and be a leader, a teacher, an ambassador, giving back to her “Homeland”.
If we had more women like Phounam in the world, it would be a better place to live. Please support her ambition, her tenacity and help her be the educated woman she seeks to become.