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20 Years of Hope: Leona

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Leona grew up in a very poor family, living on the edge of a large city dump site where her family would work each day searching for recyclables to sell. She first entered our “Catch Up Class,” a primary school designed to get impoverished children who had missed schooling into the education system at a level consistent with their peers.

Teen girl wearing white shirt in Cambodia

Leona proved to be a quick learner. By the time she was 14, she was ready to enter 7th grade in a public middle school. Monthly support from Love Without Boundaries provided her with school uniforms and supplies.

Three years later, Leona moved on to high school. Eager to learn and expand her horizons, she was ranked near the top of her class and received an award for perfect attendance.

Teen girl holding a stack of books

LWB continued Leona’s educational support, providing not only uniforms and school supplies but extra English lessons, a bicycle for her long trek to school, and books — LOTS and LOTS of books. Leona had become an avid reader!

Teen girl going to school with a bicycle in Cambodia

In 2020, schools in Cambodia were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When schools reopened, Leona happily returned to school and continued to thrive in Grade 11 — until, suddenly, she didn’t. The school reported that her attendance and grades had drastically declined.

Teen girl in Cambodia with her bicycle

Concerned, our Cambodia team learned that Leona was working as a waitress until late at night, providing needed support for her family but finding it difficult to keep up with school. Another issue was that she no longer felt safe traveling on the lonely, dangerous roads to school in a region known for trafficking. 

Committed to ensuring that Leona finish school, we gave her after-school employment in our Rangsei school library and located a placement for her in a high school with safer access.

Teen girl in a school library in Cambodia

Happily, Leona is once again on track, working hard in Grade 12.

Teen girl sitting at a school desk writing in a book

Amy Eldridge, LWB’s founder, met with Leona and her mother at the landfill just a week ago. Leona excitedly talked about her upcoming high school graduation. Every night after school, she spends hours going over review books so that she can score as high as possible on Cambodia’s college entrance exam, which she will take in a few months’ time. 

Leona shared that her goal is to be accepted to a computer programming college in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. She is determined to work hard at her studies so that someday she can move her family permanently away from the landfill.

Young woman in a blue hat sorting recyclables at a landfill

Leona’s perseverance to finish school, despite all the obstacles she has faced over the years, is truly an inspiration. She will be the first in her family to ever receive a high school diploma, and we can’t wait to offer her an LWB university scholarship this coming fall.  For this dedicated young woman, her dreams of an entirely new future for her family are clearly coming true.

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