“Due to my disability, people told me that I couldn’t do anything besides begging for money. I’ve suffered, yet I try to do everything that others do,” said Brak Sophanna, whose original video recently won first place in the “Our Better World” competition in Singapore after receiving 4,239 votes. The event drew contestants from various countries.
Born in Svay Rieng, Mr Sophanna was adopted by a Thai man after his parents passed away. Later it was found he had an incurable disease, though his adopted parents sought treatment for him at hospitals. Later his adopted father left him at an orphanage and went back to Thailand.
Due to his disability, Mr Sophanna said that he was unable to study beyond Grade 5. Since he has a strong passion for composing songs and music, he strived to find a place where he could pursue his dream. He found a church and committed strongly to studying hard with help from people there in 2010.
“First I studied guitar. Then I devoted myself to writing songs and singing, as well as studying English and computers. I eventually started to perform,” Mr Sophanna said.
Mr Sophanna thought back on these difficult times and said, “After my parents left me and I lost my legs, I couldn’t accept that my life could be like this,” he added. “I’m physically and mentally tough. I can’t sit, stand, or even sleep as normal people; I have to sleep face down. I feel very bad when I want to travel as I can’t move like everyone else.”
But as he saw more of the outside world he realised that there are lots people suffering even more than him. He tried to set a goal for his life and not just resign himself to his fate.
So far, the 26-year-old has composed about 30 original songs, which have played on local television and drawn a few thousand views on his YouTube channel. He has become well known, especially to young people, for two songs. The songs “Failure Is a Lesson” and “Khmer Palm Tree”, released at the end of 2014, drew many listeners. He described them as inspiring songs depicting his life story.
He is now working as teacher of singing and songwriting to about 30 young children in Siem Reap province. Though he has been through many difficulties, he has never asked for money from people as a beggar, because he doesn’t want to be a bad role model for other disabled people. He encourages all disabled people to learn how to grab opportunities and use their talents through music or whatever they are capable of doing.
Accepting the first prize in the competition, Mr Sophanna said he was really grateful to the people who have supported him and taught him. He is also thankful to Pek Mi and Ratanak Vibol, who shared his inspiring video and helped attract many people to vote for him.