I work at a bar in Siem Reap & one man I work wth, Tola, asked for my help. Before work a few times a week, I sit down with him to edit the copy on his travel company’s website. While helping Tola, I began to understand Khmer lifestyle & how they have created the ability to progress.
I learned Tola lost both of his parents at a young age.
When they died, he was a young boy living in a small village in Cambodia situated on the Thai border. To support himself, he collected food out of trash cans & dumpsters to resell to livestock owners. He worked hard his whole life to raise himself- saving every penny he earned. When he graduated high school, he moved to Siem Reap to find opportunity. He rented a tiny room to sleep in & during the day, he filled huge water jugs & delivered them to shops.
After a while, Tola saved up enough money to buy a Tuk Tuk, which are the small carts that are like cabs in Asia. Tuk Tuk drivers are self-employed, they provide their own Tuk Tuk & work as little or as much as they want. Tola worked extremely hard for two years as a Tuk Tuk driver, while taking classes at a university to learn English.
Once Tola had a good understanding of English, he began to work for a travel company. He became a Tuk Tuk driver for Angkor Wat & other tourist sites, where he was able to practice English regularly & gain knowledge of these sites.
Recently, Tola started his own travel company that employs five Tuk Tuk drivers. From sunrise to sunset, Tola is managing his company & giving tours around Siem Reap & from 8 pm to 3 am, Tola is working at the bar I work at. & every night, without fail, Tola is smiling, dancing & laughing. He is a kind, compassionate & caring person that never lets anyone realize the full day of work he just had.
Tola has become my friend & an inspiration to me. Proving to me & the world, that no matter what cards you are dealt or what obstacles you face in life, with hard work, you can overcome anything.
I also look at Tuk Tuk drivers with a newfound admiration. They worked so hard to afford the Tuk Tuk, which gives them the ability to independently work & make a living for themselves & their family. So thank you to people like Owen & Jan from Australia, who donated a Khmer a Tuk Tuk. You have truly impacted their life. (See top photo).
This is Tola & me watching the sunset over Siem Reap.