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Plugging the brain drain

Profiles of Cambodian youth who are fighting the trend toward the city and making a difference, despite the difficulties, in the  provincial parts of the Kingdom.

Upon leaving his homeland in Takeo province in 2007, Kim Bora began vocational training in the electronics field at the Centre Kram Ngoy (CKN). When he completed his final exam, he was just as quick to set his sites on a career in the countryside and within two days he was in Kampong Cham, where he continues to work today and hopes to raise his family.
The 27-year-old Kim Bora works for the Electricity Tboung Khmum Enterprisea s a manager of their branch in Ou Reang Ov district in Kampong Cham.

He is tasked with not only ensuring the distribution of electricity to the people in the community he lives in, but also must ensure that his neighbours, and other customers, pay their bills on time.

“Electricity is very important in people daily life,” he said. “However, in some areas connections are still difficult and I often receive complaints that car batteries are much more expensive.”

Kim Bora admits that he has much work left unfinished, he is also proud of the accomplishments he has made. He said that so far, he and his team has equipped around 3,000 households with electricity and around 3,000 more households will be connected shortly.

Although Kim Bora moved swiftly to the province he currently lives in, he remembers the difficulties of settling in vividly. “At first, I didn’t have any friends and I felt very homesick,” he said.

But he remained persistent and after sticking it out for a while, he got used to the environment and everything has now reached a point where he feels very comfortable in his surroundings.

When asked about his future plans, he said he that he no longer considers taking a job in the city or making a return to his hometown. Why? you might ask. Well, that has nothing to do electric connections.

He fell in love with a woman while he was negotiating life in Kampong Cham and they want to stay right there to start a family together. By Dara Saoyuth

As a fresh graduate in media management, 25-year-old Lach Vannak realised that the Kingdom beyond the capital city also needs developing, so he set of to work in communications with PEPY, a NGO working to improve access to, and quality of, education in the Kingdom with an elementary, junior high school and high school in Siem Reap.
Originally from Kampong Cham province and raised in a farmer family, Lach Vannak previously worked with Action Aid International (Cambodia) in Phnom Penh before deciding that he needed to work in a more rural setting.

“As a fresh graduate... I need to open my eyes to see a different situation around my country,” he said, explaining why he was moved to find a new challenge in the countryside.

“Remote areas face many problems and they need to be developed,” he said “the capital has more opportunities and there is less job market for in the provinces, but I recommend that it will be great if people can contribute at least one or two years working in the province.”

Explaining the importance of personal trial Lack Vannak says that hearing someone else say something ten times does not replicate experiencing it yourself.

He added that if people think that coming to work in the province will make them it difficult to return to the city in the future, they should think again. In fact, making such a decision has already limited their freedom more than they would if they were open to living life outside of Phnom Penh.

“Many foreigners coming to volunteer or intern in the developing country, are afraid of going back to their country and having no job,” he said with more curiosity than disgust. “When, in fact, it gives them more opportunities as they have experiences that others do not.

While you may disagree, one thing is clear. Lach Vannak is a man who practices what he preaches. By Tivea Koam

How many times have you have thought that after graduating you would prefer to work in rural area, where there are poor accommodations, limited internet, and lots of homesickness.
Probably never, but there are people doing it, and Touch Sothiary is one of them.

He is a provincial program assistant at the Indigenous Community Support Organization (ICSO), and it hasn’t always been easy.

“I am new here,” said Touch Sothiary, and he has run into some interesting problems while getting used to his new surrounding. In rainy season, for instance, it is very difficult to travel along red clay road to meet with the indigenous communities that often live far from the main roads.

It has also taken some patience to adapt to their culture and traditions, which he had never encountered.

He considers going back to the city, but then he reconsiders.

“Somehow when I think of what I am doing for developing the poor and the weak indigenous communities in order to empower their future; my eagerness to work in Phnom Penh disappears” he aid. He stressed that employment opportunities and modern lifestyles are not important to him, and that a deeper meaning is driving his life at the moment.

He came to Rattanakiri, his centre of employment, because he saw a pending conflict between the indigenous people and major companies who hope to use the land for development. He realised that the native communities would have no way to protect their land or fight against these companies. Since the government would likely have the final say, he imagined  scenario where the indigenous populations have no land to work and no money to live. This is what motivated him to head north. 

“At least I could help something” he said. For now, that is enough to keep Touch Sothiary happy. By Sothea Ines

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