Tuesday, 25/10/2011 12:00 AM
It's not a dream
With Bachelor degree in Finance & Banking and Master degree in Management, I could easily find a lot of attractive jobs in Cambodia, which is a skilled-labor scare country. Therefore, I had got a job since I was still at school. I worked as a coordinator for a project aiming at Protection of Children's Rights of a non-governmental organization.
In late 2009, I received a phone call from Bayon Television; they offered me a job as the head of a humanitarian program called “It's not a dream”. According to information from Bayon Television, Metfone would financially sponsor and cooperate with the Bayon Television in order to organize and provide free services for Cambodian people to find and reunite with their lost relatives. Actually, I was not very interested in this program at that time, partly because I had got a very good job, and I did not have enough confidence that this program could find missing people. Moreover, the program was sponsored by a business, so I doubted about its humanitarian purposes. However, after learning that an other similar program had been successful in Vietnam, and Russia; I agreed this offer. On the other hand, I also wanted to challenge myseft in a new programe and I think it may bring more oppotunity for people around me.
Challenge and disappointment
Our group has 11 members. All of them had not ever had a job before except for me, some were still at school. They were all young and had little experience. Meanwhile, the search job was not easy as people thought, although in my country, there are many cases in which people were separated by war and civil war, especially in the period of Pol Pot regime . The biggest problem was that the program was too new for people to believe in. Therefore, despite the support of Bayon Television and Radio broadcasting, there was nobody registering to find their lost relatives at first. Meanwhile, we did not have any database about the lost cases. I went to find supports from lots of places, and non-governmental organizations in order to get some related information, however, the results were just some information with few clues. Actually, I and my group started to feel stuck. I was under very high pressure to boost the working spirit for the group and find the way out for the show. First 5 months passed almost without any solution. There are a few records registered by the relatives of the group but without any hope to find out the lost people due to lack of information. Our group was almost very depressed. I often said that “we will succeed in one day. Try to do best. Have belieft it as our own program” to motivate people in our group. However, I mostly wanted to give up at that time, even I thought I did not have adequate capacity of implementing this project.
Sokhayouk, sitting in front on the left and her team in the Studio of "Its not a dream" program
Blooming with Happiness
However, We were so lucky! We were not alone. It was different from my initial imagination that Metfone just gave money without any responsibility for the programme as many others did in our country, Metfone set up a group to directly joint us in the programme. They also sent us to Vietnam to be trained and invited Ms. Thu Uyen who is in charge of the similar programme in VietNam to be the Advisor for the programme. In early difficult days, Metfone’s employees directly handled and translated each record from Khmer into Vietnamese so that Ms Uyen could advice for clues. Our trips to every province are enthusiastically supported by Metfone staff in all branches.
Metfone's branch is used to receive applications for finding missing people
Emails from Ms Uyen and Metfone’s group encouraged me very much. Difficulties were gradually resolved. Our group began to learn how to hold interviews, to extract information and link clues. With supports from Metfone staff in villages, we can hold the program in remote villages where Bayon radio program could not reach. There are more and more people calling to our program, although most of them just want to try one more chance.
Finally, the day we all expected had come. One fine morning of 4/2010, we received a case of a man named Rithy from Rattana Kiri province. He wanted to find his family who had missed for many years.
Sith Rithy was born in a family of 3 children. His father died early, then his mother remarried. Rithy’s alcoholic stepfather usually beated him so much that Rithy ran away from his home when he was only 12. Rithy wandered around everywhere such as Battambang, Kaphong Thom…and then he lived his poor life as a hunter in Rattanak Kiri, a moutainous province. Rithy missed his mother very much but he did not remember the way to go home. When growing up, he was too poor to find his mother. One day, on the way hunting, Rithy accidentally listened to a radio program named “It’s not a dream”. He called us although he did not expect much.
With detail instruction of Ms Uyen, we finally found hir mother’s address in Battambang. All of us were overjoyed and began to nervously keep secret until Rithy and his mother met each other. While our group were putting the program into rehearsal, the group from Metfone was designing the studio and taking Rithy’s family to Phnom Penh. I still remembered when meeting us, Rithy’s mother said Rithy was a dutiful child, Rithy loved her most. His mother cried very much for missing her son, she no longer hoped to see Rithy again and comforted herseft that “he was dead”. Yet the moment she had not expected came. Their family all bursted into tears.
Mr Rithy found his family after 31 years
Our group were very very happy. We felt that our effort brought about result. We began to believe that “unbievable things can come true.”
It was really wonderful that after the first program was broadcasted, there were more than 100 phone calls to our hotline and more than 20 families visited us everyday because they believed that they also could find their family. There were countless number of wishes spoken out. People who used to yield to fate regained hope to find missing happiness. That brought happiness to all people sharing this condition as well as people who implemented the program. That happiness can not be described with words.
After the success of the first program, our commitment was increasingly stronger. Soon after, we succeed in another case and only 1 month later, we helped 4 cases reunite. In some periods we unite 1 case per day. This initial success made Tith Thavrith, Deputy General Director say that “At first, I never believe that this program can find missing people, but now I believe, faith is very important.”
Today, our program is so well-known among Cambodians. In my trip to provinces, I asked some people about the program. Could you image what they said? They said that every Thursday afternoon, their family all had dinner earlier than usual in order to watch our program. They all bursted into tears when other family reunited.
It’s special happiness for me. I feel much more useful since I could help those who were absent from relatives. I coudn’t use any words to express my feeling when I witnessed the reuinion in the program. My father died in 2008, and it was the first time I knew the sense of losing someone special. I remember him everyday but I also know that he never could come back. I really understand the feeling of losing someone and having no chance to meet again, but suddenly one day, they could “find” and “touch” their lovers in a narrow space of the studio. It’s a sacred moment that no words can describe. I cried everytime seeing my character crying and huging each other after more than 30 years of seperation.
Until now, we’ve reunite 7 cases, 5 cases of which have moved people, and encouraged people who were almost hopeless to find their relatives.
And… when the dream comes true
This project is truly special and it is surprising gift for me. I not only believe more in life and my own effort, but I am also more open in considering each issue. My suspicions about intention of Metfone cleared when I received their memos including their decision to give up ads rights, because they want the program to be just for humanity aim.
I feel much luckier than many young people in my generation for not having been in war, but directly joining in reuniting the seperated people, which makes me no longer “indifferent” to national pain. For the first time in my life, I has worked tirelessly with a lot of interests because I know the effort will bring the happiness of reunion to others. Helping people reunite with their missing relatives is the most precious thing in this world. Nothing is more important than family, I think.
To reach the simple “reunion” word, sometimes we have to spend all our lifetime. In life, everything is almost healed, except for seperation. Nothing can replaced our blood. Maybe they byhow overcome 20 years, or 30 years, but only when reuniting each other, they actually live like a family, in the case of Mr Sun Phy, who lost his family at 9-years-old when Pol Pot drafted him into army. After war, he still didn’t know who he was and where his family was. He lived in Banteaymeanchey and did’nt know where to go because the world was too big to him. Despire living with his wife, he always felt lonely. When the program helped him reunite with his family, he said that from now on, he was not alone anymore. He knew who he was, and where he was born. He thanked Metfone and Bayon for helping his dream come true.
And many, many other cases… Each man has each fate. But after being reunited, they live more happily than before. When I go to film and find someone, everyone realizes me and starts to talk about the program. I whisper to thank to those who created the program because what we’ve been doing is towards community as well as ourselves. The person who brings happiness to someone is the one who receive most happiness.
Ms Prak Sokhayouk, the program manager of the Humanity program "It is not a dream"