RESPECTING POVERTY

Bun Thet and Thorn

Thorn, 13, and his brother Bun Thet, 9, spend long afternoons on a boat setting nets in Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s largest lake. After a nap, they wake at 2am to check for fish, which they give to their parents, who rejoin them as the sun rises to take the family home to eat and rest.

The parents don’t force Thorn and Bun Thet to work when school is in session, though the boys help whenever they can. The family is very poor, for sure, and fishing is hard work. But the boys exhibit a remarkable work ethic born out of a strong family bond. 

Face-to-Face’s Siem Reap Center helps children consider their poverty not as their fate but as an opportunity. Providing rice and fish, constructing roads, sewing clothes — these are things that all people need. 

Thorn loves music, and wants to learn guitar at our music program. Bun Thet likes growing vegetables in his own organic garden at the Center. We encourage their parents to visit the Center, witness, and be proud of their boys.

Someday, Thorn and Bun Thet may be leaders in a sustainable fishing industry. Or a farm-to-table family business. They have ample hands-on experience —lacking in most industry owners — and an inspiring work ethic.

Our job at the Center is to give them support, encouragement, and possibility. Let them learn to speak with confidence, laugh with abandonment, and dream outside the box. Let Thorn and Bun Thet know that we respect who they are. 

And however they might change their world.