Stories of Hope: Paul
On our very first visit to western Cambodia in 2016, we met a beautiful girl named Christine. Two years before, she’d been diagnosed with tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. Conventional TB can easily be treated in the early stages and has a 90% cure rate with quality medical care. Without proper treatment, however, 2/3 of people who contract tuberculosis will die — a staggering one million people each year, with poverty sadly being a major contributor.
Christine’s family did everything they could to help her, even selling their land and possessions in order to try and afford her medical care. But they were still short of the funds needed. In order to try and save her life, her brother Paul, then a senior in high school, decided to sacrifice his own future in order to help pay for tuberculosis treatment for the sister he loved.
Paul dropped out of high school and crossed the border into Thailand to search for work. He was single-minded in his goal to send critical money back home to try and save Christine’s life. He told us, “Every day I worked in Thailand with the hope that one day my sister will be better, and she and I can return to school someday and study together once again.”
After learning of Christine’s situation, LWB stepped in to help. Tragically, despite all our efforts to help Christine medically, we were too late. A short time after our visit, she lost her battle with tuberculosis, and her tight-knit family was devastated with grief.
We were so moved by how much this family had sacrificed to try and save Christine. Our director spoke with her siblings, who shared that they dreamed of someday rising above their impoverished circumstances. Her brother Paul longed to attend university, even though he knew it was impossible due to the family’s financial situation.
We encouraged Paul to sit for the high school exam so the door to higher education would not be permanently shut for him. He is an incredibly intelligent young man, and we were overjoyed when he passed the examinations needed to apply for college.
LWB created a college scholarship program for promising students in rural Cambodia, and in 2017, Paul became one of our first scholarship recipients. He was accepted into the electrical engineering program at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia, where he is now in his final year of studies.
Paul has been an exceptional student. He carries a course load of 9 to 10 classes per semester, even during COVID, and never complains despite the challenges. His classes for the last semester included Electric Vehicle Systems, Power Electronics, General English, Control Engineering, PLC Systems, Digital Power Electronics and Applications, Electronic Circuit Theory, and Electronic Circuits Lab. (Did that make anyone else tired like it did us?)
From day one, Paul has embraced this second chance of fulfilling his dream of becoming a university graduate. In 2021, he’ll be in the job market seeking a position in production engineering. Even though he knows employment opportunities will be negatively affected by COVID, his always optimistic outlook is keeping him confident about finding a job after graduation.
Because of the kindness of those who support our education programs, Paul’s future is now filled with authentic hope. He says that the scholarship program has changed his life, and he thanks those “who believe in children like me, who otherwise have no possibility of ever going to university.”
Christine would be so proud of her brother. He was willing to sacrifice everything for his love of family. Now, with his sister’s memory carried deeply in his heart, he will soon finish college and take the next big step of his future. That’s truly the Power of Hope.
Would you like to make dreams come true for other rural students like Paul? Make a donation to our year-end campaign and help LWB change even more lives this coming year.