Bora Dok has always had one dream — to become a teacher. “I love teachers because I was inspired by them,” says Bora. “Teachers at the floating school gave me an education, so I want to help others.”
OneChild’s Mechrey Floating School, located on Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia, gives 200 children who live on the water the opportunity to receive an education. Without the floating school, the children would have no place to study. They would be destined for a life of poverty on the river where illnesses and malnutrition run rampant — this is their only opportunity.
After completing classes at the floating school, which serves kids from kindergarten to sixth grade, Bora attended Pouk High School, hoping to earn a teaching certificate.
But her life didn’t go according to plan.
Bora’s mother grew ill, so she had to drop out of high school to care for her mom. “When I couldn’t finish school, my heart was broken,” Bora says. “My dream was crushed.”
And yet God, in His faithfulness, made the impossible possible.
Bora discovered that the floating school had an urgent need for a teacher. Although she had only completed 10th grade, the director, who had witnessed Bora’s dedication over the years, offered her a teaching job. “That was a joyful moment for me!” says Bora. “I made a commitment that whatever I could do to help — I would do it. I grew up here, so I understand the struggles that children face.”
For two years, Bora served as a fourth grader teacher. Next, she decided to focus on literacy and became the school’s librarian — a role that she’s been thriving in for the last three years. “My responsibility is to help kids learn to read,” says Bora. “There’s nowhere else for them to access books. I get kids interested in stories so they can improve their reading skills.”
Bora believes in the power of education, so she does everything she can to help kids make it to school. “Transportation is an issue,” she explains. “When the water is high, it takes a long time for kids to row to school. Some families only have one boat, so when parents take the boat to fish, there’s no way for kids to get to school.”
Parents in the area value education, but school isn’t always a top priority. “Their challenge is surviving,” Bora says. “When parents need kids to help, they don’t think about long-term goals — they’re dealing with the crisis at the moment.”
Most families in the village live in extreme poverty. Since they 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.
In terms of livelihood, families depend on fish. Several generations ago, people moved to the area because the fishing was plentiful. But years of overfishing have nearly depleted the fishing supply. Most parents don’t have other ways to provide food for their children. “The men get up at 3 a.m. to put up fishing nets,” says Bora. “From the minute they open their eyes in the morning, they have to find something to eat — to survive.”
But fishing isn’t possible for everyone. “Some people don’t have the equipment to fish so they clean fish instead,” Bora says. “This was how my mother and I earned money when I was a child.”
Finding stable employment is also challenging. “Most adults in this area are not educated,” says Bora. “Therefore, they can only find jobs like carrying bricks. People make about $5 a day.”
Many people move to Thailand in search of a better life. But instead, they find themselves trapped.
“People get trafficked and aren’t able to escape,” explains Bora. “This is especially true for fishermen. Their passports are stolen and once they’re at sea, there are no government officials to protect them. They can be stuck there for years.”
That’s why Bora is grateful for the floating school — because kids receive an education and discover hope for the future. Once kids graduate from the floating school, they have the opportunity to go to a boarding school in Siem Reap called the Dream Center to finish their secondary education. Many have gone on to college and are now nurses and teachers.
It’s also important to Bora that the children learn about God. “Many people have come to know God through the school,” she says. “Child Champions helped me believe in a God who loves me. I understand that each child has value in God’s eyes. I want to make sure children understand that.”
Bora, who is now 28, is thankful that her family is also living for God. “Now, my husband believes in God, as well,” she says. Bora also has a daughter who attends the floating school. Because her daughter is receiving an outstanding education, Bora knows her child will succeed in school — and in life.
OneChild sponsors are helping educate kids across the globe. Bora is incredibly grateful. “Words cannot express my heartfelt gratitude for you,” Bora says to sponsors. “Before the school opened, kids weren’t able to go to school. Because of you, we’re able to educate them! Please pray that the kids will continue to value their education. Also, pray for our village — that all people here will experience God’s love.”
Tour the Floating School!