Over the last month my family and I have been travelling in Cambodia and have been privileged enough to get to know a number of inspiring people, and this in a country where there are so many barriers to success. I’d like to share some of their stories with you and what I have learnt from their experiences.

The Cambodia Interviews : 1

Thavry Thon


Thavry in Cambodia sharing fruit with my children after cycling 50 km.

This is Thavry Thon.  She is 25 years old. Thavry delights in the world around her, has a passion for making a difference in her country, and despite the challenges always has a smile on her face.

Thavry is an artist, writes children’s stories, runs an adventure travel business and leads travel and study tours for young Cambodian women and men. Thavry’s travel company is called Toursanak which means “thinking” in Khmer.

Thavry won a scholarship to the Czech Republic and gained a degree in IT and Management.

She is also part of Small World Cambodia. One of the very few social enterprise incubators in Cambodia.

I have visited Thavry’s family home on a beautiful island in the Bassac River near Phnom Penn. They have a small fruit orchard in a village.

They have no running water to their home, no electricity, no oven, no washing machine. Unlike others in the village they have enough food to eat and are in good health. Thavry has two brothers, one older and one younger than her. They are the only family of 1,000 families on the island whose children have undertaken tertiary education.

KW What barriers did you are to overcome to get to where you are today?

TT I broke many traditions and cultural norms, like staying home and early marriage. I had to be strong and believe in myself when others told me what to do. It was also difficult for me to find the money to pay for high school.

KW What role did your family play in your success?

TT They encouraged me to be  where I want to be in life. They supported me financially, they didn’t care what others in the village said. They were an advocate for my dreams, overcoming their own fears and worries. They believe that education is the key to overcoming poverty in our country, and I believe this too. They worked so hard to get enough money to send their children to school. When we were young the children were given jobs. My mum reinforced the idea that you must work hard to get something. My Mum taught us how to appreciate simple things, rather than material things. She taught us how appreciate what we have and how lucky we are – not look to what we don’t have.

KW Did you have other role models did they and how did they help you?

TT I worked at Pepy Cambodia and shared a room with Daniela Papi. I learnt leadership skills, respect for all as equals. She encouraged me to believe that I can achieve what I want, even as a Cambodian girl. I developed confidence. I learnt I can do it! And believe that I can.

KW What is your mission in life?

TT I want to see all children children in Cambodia gaining access to quality education. I want to see more young Cambodians playing a role as leaders in order to change the country. My dream is to travel around the world and take my mum on an aeroplane.

KW What lessons would you like to share with parents and educators to enable young people to achieve their potential?

TT A lot of people ask my Mum this! My Mum and Dad couldn’t complete their dreams as they had to enter into an arranged marriage at a young age. This inspired them to encourage their children to realise their dreams. I think the lessons I would like to share are;

  • investing in your child, being part of the conversation to make a decision of their future
  • reinforcing the appreciation of simple things not material things
  • encourage the child to achieve their own personal dreams
  • appreciate what you have
  • being honest about how hard it is to make money and that all of this goes to education
  • education is a long term investment. My Mum sold land, and a cow to pay for education.


Thavry translating a slideshow presented by my daughter about NZ to the local villagers. Thavry’s Mum is on the right.

My Mum is now a role model in  the village. They villagers now see the outcome and are following this example. This is so powerful as she has worked so hard to give her children these opportunities.

And finally…… how can we use Storypark to apply some of this learning?

By noticing your children’s interests and recording them on Storypark you are beginning the cycle of recognising and supporting your child’s personal dreams.

Just like Thavry’s Mum.

Kathleen from Storypark

Posted by Storypark

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