From a migrant worker to a Python programmer

Kimsal was born close to Thailand in Banteay Meanchey province. 80 to 90% of the people who live in that area have, at one point or another, been migrant workers in Thailand. Kimsal was one of them. He needed money to survive and Cambodia didn’t have many jobs, so Kimsal left his village to work in his neighboring country, even though he was still in school. 

Kimsal was born in a big family with 9 other siblings. Many of his siblings went to work in Thailand, a tradition that started during his father’s generation. His father once told him that he needed to work in Thailand to feed all his children. Kimsal would spent 3 weeks out of 4 to work in Thailand, spending only 1 week in school. Each day, 300 to 400 people from his area would go to work in Thailand leaving from the port of PoiPet, on the Thai border.

Kimsal worked in the farm planting sweetmelon. There were different types of farms, such as rice, sugarcane, potato, and melon. He earned from 150 bath to 200 bath (about 4 to 5 USD) per day, working from 7 to 12AM then from 1PM to 5PM each day. He slept at the farm where he worked; the farm’s owner made a small farm house for the workers to stay. The sweet melons were very sensitive so sometimes when the rain came at night, he needed to wake up and cover them otherwise they would spoil. He needed to work even though it was raining and he could not stop. From his daily pay, he needed to spend between 40 to 50 bath on foods. So each day he could save only about 100 bath.

In grade 12, he studied more and reduced the amount of time that he went to Thailand. After his state exam, he applied for a scholarship to study in Phnom Penh, but he never expected that he would get selected. So, he went to work in Thailand again. About 2 months later, he came back to the border to transport the melons, where he got a call from Enfants du Mekong, a school that helped children that could not afford to study. They called him for an interview. He went to Sisophon for an interview then returned to Thailand to work. In his mind, he still thought that he would not get selected. Even after he graduated from high school, he did not know what could he could do with his knowledge. He did not have much hope in life. He did not really want to work in Thailand. The more he worked in Thailand, the more he wanted to go back to school and pursue his education.

Luckily, he got selected to study at the Enfants du Mekong. From 1,000 students, they only selected 40 students for full scholarship and he was one of them. Kimsal decided to stop working in Thailand and moved to study in Phnom Penh in 2012. He pursued his education at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in the major of computer science. He has realized that, while he was working in Thailand he had not been given much value or respect. If he did not work for one week, he could not eat. Life was only earning from day to day with no future.

He is very happy that he was able to go to school. He knew his life would change forever – and it has. He uses his knowledge to support himself and family. He uses his educated brain to think and envision his long-term future.

Kimsal now is one of the IT developers at Smallworld Cambodia. He uses Python framework to build a web publishing and communication platform (similar to wordpress). From Kimsal’s story, we can learn that there is always a way out, as long as we don’t lose hope. Who could imagine this migrant boy who once worked in Thailand is now able to program and is going to build something exciting for computer users?


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