Suyvisal VORN and Somvorleak RY both graduated in July 2016 and quickly found jobs in one of the school’s 19 partner hotels. Today, they tell us a bit about their daily experiences in their new professional lives.
Suyvisal is one of the three hearing-impaired students who was part of the pilot professional insertion program carried out jointly by Sala Baï and the NGO Krousar Thmey. He is from an extremely impoverished family from the Battambang province where only his younger sister still lives, as his father and elder sister have gone to try their luck in Thailand and his mother, who is ill, lives with one of his aunts in another province. So, corresponding to the socio-economic criteria of the school, he was able, notwithstanding his disability, to complete the Houskeeping training course and after a year of exemplary studies in terms of his serious attitude, his investment in his work and his excellent integration within his intake, he was hired a few weeks after obtaining his diploma The Aviary Hotel, a 25-room luxury boutique-hotel where he has worked for the past 11 months.
“On a day-to-day basis, my team and I are responsible for the upkeep of the hotel’s communal areas and the clients’ rooms. I’m really very happy to work here because my line-managers trust me and I’m able to work very autonomously. If the clients are in their rooms when we come by, I team up with a hearing colleague to facilitate exchanges. Otherwise, I handle the tidying and the cleaning of the room alone. Everyone here was very kind to me right from the start. They trained me in all of the hotel procedures and even made the effort to learn Khmer sign language to that they could communicate more easily with me. Of course, there are times when our conversation is limited and it can be frustrating, for them and for me, when we struggle to understand each other. But we always find a way! Using gestures or by writing. Here, I’m really an employee among others and thanks to my salary I’m able to send around $100 a month to my mother and my sister. This is a lot more than we’ve ever had up to now. I’d like to carry on working at The Aviary Hotel at least for the next three years! ”
This model of social and professional integration is confirmed by the assistant manager of housekeeping at the hotel, Mr. Sakkda SIM. “We’re extremely satisfied with Suyvisal’s work and with the way he has integrated the team so well. Even though he is unable to talk, he has a very friendly attitude, always smiling and willing with regard to both his colleagues and our clients. I have full confidence in him. He has shown that he is capable of taking initiatives and today he even trains the interns! He’s one of our best staff members and in January, he was even named Employee of the Month. I am convinced that despite his disability, he has an excellent career ahead of him in the hotel industry. He is an example to all of us!”
In a country where disability is still seen as a fatality, the professional insertion of Suyvisal is a fine example of success, opening the way to even greater social integration of disabled people in Cambodia in general, and in the tourism sector in particular.
Somvorleak was one of the first students to take the Beauty Therapy training launched in September 2015. She had barely graduated when she was hired by Kaya Spa, the beauty institute of the eco-responsible company Senteurs d’Angkor, which specialises in handcrafted and natural local products.
“After nearly a year’s professional experience, I can tell just how far I’ve come in my career. I remember my first internship, I was terribly anxious about the idea of having to chat to the clients! I’m naturally shy and I didn’t speak English at all when I arrived at Sala Baï. So, talking to foreigners seemed to me something that was insurmountable! Today, I have a lot more self-confidence. I’ve received training in all of the beauty techniques that we offer at Kaya Spa and I can handle clients on my own.
This is a real victory for me. I have a real career and I earn $200 a month which is a good salary in Cambodia, especially when you’re young and you had to leave school at age 13 like I did. I’m able to use this money to help my parents and my brother, who had to go to Thailand to work in extremely precarious conditions to pay back a loan taken out by one of my late aunts. When I compare their living conditions with mine, I realise how Sala Baï really saved me. Before enrolling at the school, I worked with them on construction sites, six days a week, all living together in a 15 sqm room. My job was to prepare the cement.
I’m so happy to be here now! In addition to the excellent working conditions, the atmosphere is really warm. There’s real team spirit.”
This is confirmed by the Kaya Spa manager Mr. Samnang MIL: “We’re a small team and it’s very important for us all to get along. In this regard, Somvorleak has been an excellent hire. Not only does she love her work and have a very professional and irreproachable attitude, she also makes a major contribution to the friendly atmosphere of our institute. I hope that she’ll stay with us for a long time.”
Somvorleak’s plan is in fact to work at Kaya Spa for several years in order to gain experience and then to go back to the Battambang region, her home province, to open her own salon. And in the meantime, she’s decided to carry on taking English evening classes so that she can get along with her clients even better!