When Somying’s father was incarcerated for a drug-related crime, the duty to help her family manage daily life fell upon Somying. Her mother suffered from a heart condition, which meant that, from the age of 5 or 6, Somying helped her mother cook, take care of the home, and watch after her wayward younger sister.
Somying believes her father was a scapegoat in that situation and she is unafraid to tell their story. Still, the practical impact of his incarceration was that he was absent for almost 20 years of her life. Though she was a mere child, the circumstances required her to assume a leadership role in the family. She didn’t have many of the usual childhood experiences. She didn’t have time to play or enjoy life. She lived in a dormitory for eight years to attend school, but on holidays, she couldn’t spend time with friends because she had to help her mother work and feed the family. Even when her sister misbehaved, Somying felt accountable.
While living in a dormitory might seem like a break from family responsibility, it also means estrangement from the family anchor for young children. Having to leave home for school at such a young age is common for many poorer, rural, and ethnic minority children in the region. What often isn’t discussed is the emotional and psychological impact on young children separated from their families and the sacrifices they all make to ensure an education.
Somying’s mentor, Ning, knew her before beginning work at The Freedom Story. Her impression of the young girl at the time had been that she was an impressively committed, dedicated, and hard-working student. Only after Ning began working at The Freedom Story and became Somying’s mentor did she realize the toll such a burden took. Somying showed a brave and strong face to the world, but in the safety of their close mentor-mentee relationship, she revealed how these hardships affected her. In private, she would often cry, wondering why such things happened to her and her family. When confronted with problems, she hastened to find the quickest way out, just wanting her troubles to end. She felt lost. Financial constraints made it impossible to dream about her future. She had no idea where to go next.
The Freedom Story’s scholarships helped cover the costs of her education, helping to relieve that burden. Through the mentorship Ning and other Freedom Story mentors provided, Somying gradually became able to identify dreams. She wanted to go to China to study for her bachelor’s degree and gain experience living abroad. Her mother had been afraid to let her go, especially as a young, single woman. She also worried about the financial costs of life in a foreign country. Somying herself had been afraid of leaving her mother alone to cope with running the house and her very stubborn younger sister.
By the time Somying reached university, however, she was much more mature and emotionally stable, and her mentors believed in her ability to take on the challenge of life abroad. The Freedom Story’s scholarships provided her with a monthly stipend and covered the costs of her student visa. Discussions with her mother helped convince her that her daughter was capable and that the benefits of this opportunity would set Somying up well financially in the future.
The leap of faith they took paid off.
Somying’s life in China was indeed a challenge. In Thailand, she could rely on others, such as her mentors, family, and friends. In China, she was truly alone and had to rely on herself. Most importantly, she learned that she could. She gained much cultural understanding and met people from other countries for a truly enriching experience.
Somying also made a commitment to herself to come back to her community after completing her education and do community service for two years, as a way of giving back. Two years became three. Her service work is tapering off now, as she is working as an interpreter for a shipping business between Thailand and China. Meanwhile, she and her boyfriend plan to marry, and together, they’ve opened a small family business selling a popular Thai snack of fried dough and warm soy milk for dipping.
Ning believes Somying exemplifies how a young, at-risk girl can grow into a capable and successful young woman. She hopes our donor community will feel proud of the little girl they had supported and what she has accomplished due to their help, and that their service in her life has been fruitful.
Somying often says that getting The Freedom Story’s scholarships has been like a vaccination for her life, protecting her from the outside world and helping her learn to engage in the world and with other people more effectively.
You Have a Chance to Meet Somying!
Have you registered for our 15th-anniversary event? Come celebrate with us at our virtual party! Somying will be there – you can hear from her directly, ask questions, and learn more about her experience!
15 Years of Freedom
Thursday, November 16
ONLINE ONLY EVENT
6:00-6:45 PM PST
9:00-9:45 PM EST
CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR TICKET NOW
RSVP FOR THE PARTY BOX BY NOVEMBER 7!