Cambodian girl escapes life of poverty to land scholarship at University of Melbourne

cambodian girl escapes life of poverty to land scholarship at university of melbourne Cambodian girl escapes life of poverty to land scholarship at University of Melbourne Sophy Ron

Less than a decade after escaping, the 21-year-old is about to begin studying at the University of Melbourne and dreams of running her own business.

Her former home, the Steng Meanchey landfill in Phnom Penh, has long been a symbol of the country’s poverty.

Each day, thousands of people pick through the filth in the hope of finding edible food and recyclables to sell.

On a good day Ms Ron would earn 50 cents, enough for a few cups of rice to share with her parents and six siblings.

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“I didn’t realise it was smelly, I didn’t realise it was dirty,” she said.

“I slept there, I ate there, I did everything there, so it became my home.”

Ms Ron said overwhelming debts left her family with no choice but to live at the dump site.

The local school only offered a place to one child per family, so Ms Ron missed out on a chance to study.

She said she followed her older sister to school and learned what she could by looking through the classroom windows.

From dumpsite to classroom

Her life changed after a chance meeting at the dump with Scott Neeson, the founder of the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF).

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“He asked me whether I wanted to study English, and at that time I had no idea what English was,” Ms Ron said.

Credit: ABC

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