by Maria Benedict, NFC & Golden Futures volunteer 2017
On our first day at New Future for Children (NFC), the first student to come up and greet us was Ting Tong. He is a very friendly and polite 16-year-old boy who has lived at NFC for a long time. On our first day at NFC, Socheat, the director, gave us a list of names of students that needed our help preparing for their futures beyond school. Ting Tong’s name was not on this list, which, if being completely honest, we didn’t take any notice of originally.
However, as we settled into NFC we realised that whilst the other students were at class, Ting Tong would never go, and a lot of the time would either be on his own or with his dog. This wasn’t surprising, since there were no boys at the centre a similar age to him. However, we got thinking that it was strange that we have been helping all of the other students above the age of 16 apart from Ting Tong. So, we decided to speak to Socheat to find out more about him.
Socheat told us that Ting Tong hadn’t attended school in months, but had a place at PSE to study a reception desk course. We could have left it at that and focused on the other students, including his sister Cheata who is hoping to study Accountancy, as after all he did have a place to start his course in September. However, we all had a soft spot for Ting Tong as he was so polite to us every day, and felt he needed some help feeling re-engaged in something productive.
So we took the chance and sat down with Ting Tong to ask him if he’d like any help creating a CV or work experience before his course starts. We thought this might keep him busy in his long days at NFC. However, he was really uninterested. Thankfully we didn’t give up there. At the time, we were also creating a University Guide and we needed a Khmer speaker to talk to the universities for us. So we asked Ting Tong if he would help us with that and even though he didn’t know what a ‘translator’ was to begin with, he was very excited!
As he helped us ring up universities and saw how much we relied on him, you could see the change in his attitude. He flourished having a purpose to get up everyday and help us, and a few days later the English teacher at NFC, Felix, came up to us and said Ting Tong had turned up to his first ever English lesson in months! As his confidence grew he became more keen to the idea of work experience, and with a few emails later to a hotel and a successful visit to meet the manager he had landed himself two weeks of work experience! He was so excited about this opportunity and we took him to get him some smart clothes to wear at the hotel. He then paraded around his new clothes at NFC and was even reluctant to take them off. He is now two days into his work experience at the hotel and says he is really enjoying it. Although it is weird not seeing him around the centre anymore, we are so happy for him and are very excited to hear how he gets on!