Finding Independence: An Update on Ilang

Meas Ilang, now aged 24, hails from Kompong Chhnang province, around 70 km from Phnom Penh. She grew up very poor and couldn’t go to school; she dreamt of wearing a smart-looking school uniform, having a proper home and sleeping in a real bed. Her life changed when she and her sister Ilay came to Little Hearts 10 years ago. Today we’re proud to report on her transformation into an industrious and accomplished young woman.

Like several of her fellow Little Hearts residents, Ilang opted to attend university after finishing school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Vanda Institute in 2019 and subsequently completed a master’s degree in tax auditing as well. She gained her first work experience by keeping the books for Little Hearts – a task she continues to perform today.

Certification Ceremony at Vanda Institute

Since late 2022, Ilang has been working as a tax accountant at Lim Long, a company that imports and distributes petroleum products throughout Cambodia. She enjoys her job, though she sometimes finds it quite stressful as well – full-time employment is so demanding! With the new job and a good salary, she was also able to finally move out of Little Hearts. She now rents her own shared accommodation in Phnom Penh.

Ever eager to develop new skills and sharpen old ones, Ilang is currently attending evening English classes at the Australian Centre for Education. She feels this is necessary to maintain her language skills, which she acquired with so much effort during her years at Little Hearts, especially because she has little opportunity to practice English in the workplace.

Ilang has two long-term dreams: to one day work as a tax specialist in Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, and to open a small English language school or a library in the village where she was born, so that local children may have the opportunity to learn English as well.

‘I left Little Hearts last December and live on my own now. It’s the beginning of a new chapter of my life,’ she says, reflecting on her life’s journey. ‘I’m old enough to manage on my own, to learn new things, to meet different people and to experience life independently. But I’m happy that I still work for Little Hearts part-time as a bookkeeper – it gives me the chance to check on my brothers and sisters every weekend.

‘I’m so grateful to my dad Tony, all the board members in Belgium, and all the sponsors and staff of Little Hearts for helping me since the beginning. I really appreciate your dedication to Cambodia’s children. Without your support, I wouldn’t be what I am today. If I managed to make it through my impoverished childhood, I’d probably be toiling in a garment factory now. You changed my life.’

Don’t sell yourself short, Ilang. Your own hard work and commitment to improving your life are a big part of the story, too. We are just happy to have helped you along when you needed it most. And we’re proud of the thoughtful, smart and energetic woman you’ve become. We wish you every success in life. (But we miss you!)

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