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20 Years of Hope: Nancy

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In 2016, a very driven 16-year-old girl named Nancy entered our Impoverished Student Support (ISS) program in Cambodia. Her family tried their best, but they had a difficult time making ends meet in the very poor region where they lived.

Nancy recalls: My parents had to migrate to Thailand to earn money to support my family, so I was raised by my grandmother and my other three siblings. My older sister dropped out of school in 9th grade to help my parents earn money in Thailand. I often felt guilty about staying in school because I wanted to help my parents. One side of me wanted to quit school and start earning money, and the other side didn’t want to follow my sister’s path but instead pursue higher education.

Nancy tested the waters, dropping out of school at age 14 to work in a factory. After three months of heavy labor, an exhausted Nancy realized that she had made a mistake. She went back to school and thankfully was able to join LWB’s ISS education program in an effort to create a better life for herself and her family.

Teenage girl in red plaid shirt completing paperwork outdoors in Cambodia

Nancy continues: I knew factory work was not for me. Later on, I found my passion in teaching. I love interacting with children in my village. I realized I wanted to be a teacher and help kids to stay in school. Every weekend, I traveled to rural areas with other youth in an organization called “Mercy Youth” to teach children English, health care and the importance of education.

Young woman surrounded by 3 students in front of a Cambodian school

In the meantime, Nancy proved to be a bright and voracious student with a talent for languages. She finished high school, passed the university entrance exams, and ultimately was chosen by LWB to attend a two-month English course in Florida, where she impressed instructors with her mastery of the English language.

Young woman with hair in a bun reading a notebook in front of a laptop

Upon returning to Cambodia, Nancy enrolled as a freshman at the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) with scholarship support from both LWB and AUPP. Throughout her years at the university, Nancy flourished. She majored in law, earning strong grades and broadening her horizons through extracurricular activities. For instance, while learning remotely during the pandemic, she organized a successful fundraiser for the tuk-tuk drivers in Phnom Penh whose business had come to a standstill. Nancy studied for countless hours yet always made time to help others.

Young woman in front of American University of Phnom Penh

In the summer after her junior year, Nancy interned at a Cambodian law firm, and in her senior year, she continued to search for new learning and leadership opportunities. In addition to working eight hours a week with Mercy Youth, she attended a National Policy Forum on “Strengthening Resilience and Reponses to Covid,” participated in an ASEAN Young Leader program with attendees from nine Southeast Asian countries (where her team’s project tied for first place), and took part in an Ambassador’s Youth Employment Forum held by the American Embassy.

Young woman in a blue shirt speaking into a microphone at a conference.

Nancy was selected as a member of AUPP’s team for the Jessup Moot Court competition, generally considered the most prestigious of moot court competitions worldwide. On a team of nine law students, she was among the five chosen to present oral arguments to the court. Most recently, Nancy participated in a program called Asia Pacific Youth Exchange.

University students in Cambodian working on a group project

Nancy proudly tells us: May 6, 2023 marked the greatest achievement of my life. I remember the moment I walked alongside my peers to receive my degree from AUPP. Seeing my parents and my sisters clapping their hands with proud smiles made me so emotional. Finally I was able to say, ‘I did it!’ after countless thoughts of, ‘I can do it’ during those difficult times.

I am forever grateful to Love Without Boundaries. I went from a girl who barely stayed in school to a girl who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in law at one of the top universities in Cambodia.

Young woman in a cap and gown celebrating her graduation in Cambodia

Shortly after graduation, Nancy was hired as a coordinator of the Law and Global Affairs program at AUPP. Her future is beyond bright, and we can’t wait to see where life takes her.

Nancy has a strong interest in southeast Asian politics and culture and would eventually like to study abroad for a master’s degree in law. Most of all, she wants to give back to her community and country, perhaps through work with an international organization based in Cambodia.

Wherever she goes and whatever she does, Nancy will never forget her roots in rural Cambodia. She is truly grateful for those who believed in her, supported her, and gave her hope for a fulfilling future.

Young woman in grey sweater sitting in an office

Nancy offers these inspiring words: To all my beloved LWB young people, I really encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to take up space for yourself. Be brave and make your voice, your thoughts, and your opinions heard. Dare to speak up to the crowd louder and stronger because, at the end of the day, you will thank yourself. Believe in yourself as you believe in your loved ones.

Nancy’s amazing story of hope is the sort of outcome that YOU make possible when you support our work around the world.

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