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Youth of the week: Sim Vathanak

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Starting out life as a poor orphan was not easy, but thanks to hard work and determination, Sim Vathanak, 31, turned his life into a success.

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When he was just seven-years-old, Vathanak’s mother ran away from her family, leaving her husband and six children behind. His father soon married Vathanak’s step mother.

“I have four sisters and two brothers but, because we were so young, we couldn’t help each other. I’m the sixth child, and all my siblings had to make a future for themselves because our mum had left us, and or dad didn’t support us,” he says.

As he speaks, his eyes turn red and single tear drops. Reminiscing over the past is clearly a tough task for Vathanak.

His study began to deteriorate due to mistreatment from his parents. He received no care or support from them – to the point he had to steal food from other school children because all of his money went towards his school books and stationery.

His neighbours decided to step in, and provided him food and care when he desperately needed it - an act he still greatly appreciates to this day.

At 14-years-old, Vathanak went to study and live at the Chinese Church. There, he received the support he needed, and even provided him with 10,000 riel one week. He stayed until he completed grade-12.

“When I received support from the church, my study improved dramatically, and I was consistently getting top grades in my class. That’s why I think it is important to have family who cares around you.

Everything works out for the best when you have a supportive family,” Vathanak says.

Vathanak needed to support himself financially and worked at many places. One of his jobs was a ticketing officer where he received $50 a month.

But the job became too much and clashed with his studies, so Vathanak found a job that worked for him: a translator.

“I didn’t stay in my job for long. I decided to work as a Chinese teacher at the institute near Bak Touk High School, teaching ten hours a day. I taught Chinese there until I became an established teacher.”

He saved up enough money for university, and continued his studies at Build Bright University with a major in Finance and Banking. After two years, he stopped and returned to teaching.

He also completed a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at SITC University – studying only on weekends, as he worked during the week.

Nowadays, Vathanak is a Marketing Director at Abacus International Cambodia, the leading travel and leisure facilitator in Asia Pacific.

“Before getting a good job and high salary like I have today, I tried very hard, worked at many places, and confronted all sorts of difficulty in my life.”

He says that working at many different places as given him experience and skills that he wouldn’t have otherwise.

“I don’t want to boast, but before working here I was being approached by other companies asking me to work for them because I’m that well qualified,” Vathanak says.

In 2010, he decided to start his own business, and after sharing with his friends, media company Ideas Solution came about.

In 2011, he pulled his shares out of the company and looked in other areas. He became Marketing Director at Abacus, and is also a shareholder in a small company. His goal is to own his own business.

Now Vathanak is a Master’s degree candidate in management skills at the Institute for Business Education.

Vathanak’s advice to young people is to never give up in life.

“Fight to get what you want. I think youth nowadays should study one major at university and stick with it, and they should get plenty of work experience while they’re young,” Vathanak says.

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