Polin Aeng, the project manager at OneChild’s Mechrey Floating School, has a nickname in his village: preacher. His mission is to share God’s life-changing love with every child he encounters.
Each day, Polin teaches kids how special they are to God. “I’m not a pastor, but they still call me preacher,” he says. “I love to let children know how much God cares about them. I grew up in this village, so I know the people. I believe I can be a blessing to my community here. I want them to know God well. I learned about God’s love when I attended this school, so this is very important to me!”
Polin also inspires kids to pursue their dreams. “I have a responsibility to encourage children to finish school,” he explains. “The students know that I studied at this school. They realize that if I can be a successful graduate, they can too.”
The children, who live on Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia, desperately need Polin’s encouragement. Most people in the village live in extreme poverty. Since families can’t settle on land due to water levels rising and falling, they live in houseboats. Plus, the area lacks sanitation, so people go to the bathroom in the lake, which is also used for drinking, cooking and bathing.
Many children in the area also face hunger. Several generations ago, people moved to the area because the fishing was plentiful. But years of overfishing have nearly depleted the village’s fishing supply.
But at OneChild’s Mechrey Floating School, 200 kids who live on the water receive life-changing help like nourishing food, medical checkups, mentoring and spiritual guidance. They also receive a quality education. Since the school is the only educational center in the area, this is their only opportunity to study. “The Floating School is so important,” says Polin, “because it gives these children a place to learn.”
Polin understands this reality firsthand. As a child, he attended the Floating School, which serves kids from kindergarten to sixth grade. After graduating from the Floating School, he transitioned to OneChild’s Dream Center, a boarding school in Siem Reap. At the Dream Center, he was able to complete his secondary education.
Today, at 25, Polin is incredibly grateful for the Floating School and Dream Center because he received an outstanding education and the skills to overcome poverty. “I am thankful that I was able to go to school and study subjects like computers and finances,” says Polin.
After graduating from the Dream Center, Polin attended college, majoring in banking. He planned to work in the financial field. But when God called him to work with the children in his community and help transform lives — he answered the call.
Three years ago, Polin accepted the position as the Floating School’s project manager. In this role, he is responsible for translating letters for sponsors and children. “This is a very important job,” Polin explains. “It’s exciting for sponsors to see letters from their children!” Polin understands the power of sponsorship because his OneChild sponsor sent him encouraging letters throughout his childhood, which helped give him the courage to pursue his dreams.
As the project manager, Polin also acts as a liaison between OneChild and the Floating School and coordinates with government officials regarding education. Plus, he oversees the facility, ensuring that everything works properly, and builds strong relationships with parents and students. “I love my job!” he exclaims.
Since Polin has been able to obtain a stable job and earn a steady living, he is now in a position to assist his family. “My father died when I was a young child, so we struggled financially,” says Polin. “My mom started a small business selling porridge and Cambodian cakes in the village, but she barely made enough for my siblings and I to survive.” He is overjoyed to be able to help his family break the cycle of poverty.
Polin has high hopes for his family and community because he believes that with God, all things are possible. “I hope the people here will one day be able to live on land,” Polin says. “I also hope they no longer have to face hunger. And I want the whole community to know about God’s love!”