The fabulous five: Our university students shine

The results are in—Little Hearts kids are brilliant! In today’s post, we review the achievements of our five university students, all of whom have earned high marks and are well on their way to completing their degrees.


Ilang is our oldest girl at LH and will soon graduate for the second time. Eighteen months ago she finished her bachelor’s degree in accounting at the Vanda Institute by completing an accelerated program that awards a four-year degree in just two years and eight months. She is now a few months away from completing her master’s degree. She has come a very long way from the shy girl who joined Little Hearts when she was a teenager. She remembers being afraid of having to live with so many other children and intimidated by meeting foreigners. She struggled at first with English, especially pronunciation, but after years of classes at Little Hearts she is confident in her language skills. She works part-time as Little Hearts’ bookkeeper and soon she will start looking for a full-time job in the private sector and accommodation in Phnom Penh. Is she worried about moving away from Little Hearts? No, she says with a broad smile. In fact, she’s looking forward to having a small place – a quiet place! – all to herself after having to share everything with 35 other kids for so long. But she will stay in touch and continue to crunch the numbers for Little Hearts.


Sothon came to Little Hearts many years ago after having stayed in a Buddhist monastery in Kampong Cham province. Now 22, he is studying agronomy at the Royal University of Agriculture. He’s about to begin his fourth and final year. It was the staff at Little Hearts who encouraged him to choose this path, having witnessed his enthusiasm for gardening and raising fruit trees on the compound. His long-term dream is to own a farm, where he’d like to grow vegetables and fruits. First, though, he’ll have to learn the ropes while working on a commercial farm. He already has his eye on a big agro-business estate in Kratie province which he visited on a field trip.


Sarim has been with Little Hearts from the beginning in 2009 when he was still a young boy but clearly remembered that he was surprised that there were so many rooms … different spaces for sleeping, eating, playing, and studying. And computers, too! When it came time to choose a university course, he and his Dad Tony did a systematic, point-by-point analysis of his strengths and interests, and decided that marketing was the most suitable and versatile option. Now aged 21, he is about to finish his third year at the National University of Management, despite various delays caused by Covid-19. His dream is to run his own company. Ideally, it will be a bicycle assembly and distribution firm. Environmental concern is increasing everywhere, he says, so bikes are going to be more important than ever as economical, environmentally friendly modes of transport. He is an avid cyclist himself, of course, and often rides out in the late afternoons to watch the sun setting over the rice fields.


Ilay came to Little Hearts when she was 9 years old. She remembers being excited to meet new people, and especially about the opportunity to learn English. She also enjoyed the Saturday painting classes at Little Hearts, and that’s where she discovered her passion for design. (The zeal with which she tidied her desk and her small personal area was also a strong hint.) Now aged 20, she is in her second year at the Royal University of Fine Arts, where she studies interior design. In her first year, she earned an impressive B+ average. ‘I want to help develop a unique style of home interiors for Cambodians,’ she says. ‘It should be modern but based on traditional forms. And it should make them feel happy to be at home.’ She is grateful for all the support and education she’s received from her dad and the Little Hearts staff. ‘I want to pay it forward,’ she says earnestly, ‘by helping the next generation of Little Hearts residents.’


Sithy, 20, studies tourism and hospitality at the National University of Management, where he recently completed his first year, earning As and Bs in all his classes. He believes Cambodia has fulfilled only a fraction of its tourism potential, so he’s certain there will be plenty of job opportunities for him once he graduates, whether in the hotel industry or as a tour guide or tour operator. Ideally, though, he’d like to manage his own resort. ‘I was good at history and biology in school,’ he muses. ‘That’s how I became interested in Cambodia’s temples and archaeological sites, as well as its natural landscapes.’ On weekend trips with his university pals, he’s trying to get to know as much of Cambodia as possible. He especially liked visiting Kampot, which offers many opportunities for outdoor activities. ‘We travelled there by motorbike,’ he chuckles. ‘It was quite an adventure.’

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