Whenever I go somewhere, I always try to find something new, strange or different. It is the way I develop my intelligence.” These are some of the words of wisdom from Kok Tha, 25, our youth of the week.
An urban guy, Kok Tha was similar to his classmates in that he did not perform well during high school. “I was a kind of spoiled; I learned nothing from my studies,” he said.
“For instance, I skipped classes, went for walks, played games and cheated in exams.”
However, after starting academic life, Kok Tha surprisingly managed to reinvent himself. “I realized that if I continued with my old ways, my future would be terrible. Therefore, I committed to change.”
Thus Kok Tha had to work harder than most of his fellow students. He needed to start everything from scratch, especially the English language since all documents and handouts were written in English.
He sometimes stayed up until as late as 3am working on his vocabulary. And, not surprisingly, success came to Kok Tha. He became an outstanding student in the department of tourism at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Apart from studying tourism during the day time, Tha also pursued an English literature class at the Institute of Foreign Language by night and performed volunteer jobs at the weekend.
For that reason, Kok Tha spent little time at home, much to the chagrin of his family.
Although this upset him, he did not give up and committed to reach his goals.
“My parents hated me so much and my siblings always complained about me,” he said. “But I told myself that I would show them it would all pay off some day.”
And pay off it did.
Kok Tha is now a general secretary of the Citizen’s Action Net for Social Development who is responsible for facilitating youth radio programs through Sarika FM 160.50, and leader of youth-saving group Friend Helps Friend.
He also provides support and consultation for other youth-saving groups in Phnom Penh that are newly established.
Now all his family members respect him and speak of him with pride.
“Even if I do not earn thousands of dollars per month, they value my work and position,” he said.
Kok Tha is well organised. “I learned to manage my time and prioritised jobs,” he said. “For example, I worked while I had break in classes and I worked out which job takes precedence.
“But what gave me the most success was respectability and politeness.”
Kok Tha has some final words of sage advice.
“Every youth should not feel hopeless or frustrated because can be full of fun and adventure. And all parents should encourage their children to reach for the stars.”