Heng Samnang, 27, has been a fan of crime movies since she was young — so much so that they inspired her to study psychology. She graduated with a degree in this field from Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2014, and now works as a social worker at the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. Recently, Ms Samnang was profiled by UNICEF, which mentioned her love of investigation and crime movies
In mid-2015, Ms Samnang helped around 50 children to reunite with and return to their families. The children were returned from various organisations, but the largest number had been under the care of Friends International. She and a team of just 10 people worked with families in 10 provinces in Cambodia.
“I do research about the families before discussing the possibility of the children going back home. With some of the children having returned to their families, orphanages have more funds to take care of those who really need it,” Ms Samnang said.
Some children don’t want to go back home because the shelters are more comfortable than what they would have at home. Meanwhile, some families do not want their children to return despite having enough money to take care of them. This was why she had to persuade them.
“Sometimes the work was difficult; some of the parents don’t want to their children back from the orphanage, and sometimes the children don’t want to go back to live with their family,” she said.
The ministry has tried to reduce the number of children living in orphanages by persuading them to go back home to their families. Based on the ministry’s observations of both the families and children, some families have enough income to support their children.
“The ministry has tried to persuade children living in orphanages to live with their family, and urged the family to take back their children. Some orphanages and shelters don’t have the budget to care for so many low-income children,” Ms Samnang said.
On her decision to study psychology, Ms Samnang said some people mistakenly believed that it was only useful for treating mental illness or “crazy” people, while others even thought it could make you go crazy. However, she said, there were many reasons to study it, depending on your goal.
Ms Samnang’s message to youth is to follow their dreams, do whatever they love to do, and to make their own decisions on what to study, and not just follow their peers. It is good to listen to family advice, she said, but they should also try to walk their own path, Ms Samnang added.