The Social Support program of Phare Ponleu Selpak is dedicated to improving the living standard of Cambodian children and their families in the community while engaging them in safeguarding children’s rights and well-being. This is made possible by the Social Support team’s unwavering effort to promote safety and well-being by offering education, child protection, and health support and prevention. 

Mr. CHHAI Bunsorng is a Battambang native and a fresh employee at Phare, working as a student services supervisor. He has helped hundreds of Phare students with a wide range of tasks, primarily family assessments, home visits, student registration, and resolving numerous school-related problems. 

Let’s explore his work at Phare in more detail!

Read this interview with CHHAI Bunsorng who works on the Social Support team at Phare Ponleu Selpak

Phare Supplied Photo

Can you introduce yourself?

I am Chhai Bunsorng. I am 30 years old. I’m from Tmor Kol District, Battambang Province. Regarding my educational background, I graduated from the University of Management and Economics (UME) in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in TESOL.

Chhai Bunsorng, social worker at Phare Ponleu Selpak

What brought you to Phare Ponleu Selpak?

I became interested in working here because my previous job was working in tourism and assisting Phare in selling circus tickets in Siem Reap. I often enjoyed circus shows, not just alone, but also with coworkers and family members. 

Phare is well-known across Cambodia, particularly in Battambang. COVID-19 also led to my decision to return to Battambang and work for an international organization in the countryside. It worked out to my advantage, I chose to work in the city rather than the rural one. 

I did not want to work in the capital city of Phnom Penh or somewhere else since I love my hometown, which is why I was searching for job possibilities here. Another thing is that, although Phare is a local organization, it works with various people from all over the world. I can see Phare is an excellent fit for me as I have a TESOL qualification and experience in the tourism industry. 

What is your role at Phare?

I am a Student Services Supervisor in the Social Support department, and I’ve been working here for almost 6 months, starting on October 2, 2023. 

My primary responsibilities are social child protection and general student services. I oversee student registration for both vocational and leisure programs at Phare and conduct home assessments for the Collective Child Sponsorship program. 

Also, I engage in any work involving children with all Phare education-related departments such as Phare Kindergarten, Phare Performing Arts School (PAS), and Phare Visual and Applied Arts School (VAAS). To address any problem situations, all departments report to the Social Support team, which is responsible for concerns, barriers, and challenges encountered by students in both leisure and vocational programs.

Phare Supplied Photo

What is special about the Social Support team at Phare?

Social work is an amazing job, especially for those who are passionate about improving society. Working in any position is beneficial to society, but as a social worker, we work directly with most at-risk children and their families, while other fields could simply have an indirect impact. 

We have the authority to determine whether or not to assist children since we are the first to engage with them directly. We serve as the department’s eyes and ears. More or less, fast and slow, it all depends on us. 

What do you like most about your job? 

One of my favorite things is working with sponsored students, especially with the students from Phare Visual and Applied Arts School (VAAS). 

I am pleased to contribute to society, but if I could choose I would prefer working with youth to children. I still work with both groups in my position.  I find dealing with children to be pretty challenging because of their need for flexibility in their knowledge and basics, and the elderly have limited time and firmly held opinions. 

On the other hand, youths are the ones who have potential and devote a lot of effort to their education. Youths are the pillars or norms in society. They have talent and have an intense desire to study. Since I’m also young, working with them is more harmonious and collaborative. It’s fun to work with them and have them fit my preferences.

Phare Supplied Photo

What inspires you at work? 

Phare has wise and courteous managers. In addition to the manager of my department, I also work with the Executive Director. Despite being a foreigner, he is an excellent director who never fails to offer opportunities and imparts new experiences while working with him. A good boss leads to a nice workplace! 

Furthermore, the working atmosphere is diverse, including both Cambodians and foreigners. A place where I can develop my skills and abilities. Lastly, consider the opportunities. I’ve only been here for less than six months, but I’ve already had the opportunity to study, expand my skills, and gain new experiences, particularly in networking, which has included interacting with other NGOs, authorities, government officials, and so on.

What is your greatest challenge at work?

We work and integrate across various departments at Phare, particularly in leisure classes, where there are many students and new ones enroll daily. Yet, we have an insufficient team structure and are still seeking more people to fill these roles. We only have three members in the Social Support team, including the manager, therefore we work much more than necessary.

Another problem is that the families and children we work with are at high risk, and our responsibility is to handle all of their personal, familial, and academic concerns. However, working with illiterate families to find solutions is challenging. Some of the visits are to families who are divorcing, have drug addictions, or are alcoholics. Despite these circumstances, we are delighted to assist with such challenges.

What makes you happy at work?

Since Phare is an artistic space, there isn’t much pressure when working. I occasionally attend circus performances and listen to music from music classes. It helps me feel refreshed and opens my eyes to new thoughts. Besides, I have an amazing manager and welcoming colleagues in a position I enjoy. Again, I sometimes sense a bit of strain due to the small size of our team. If our team structure is full, we could function faster and more efficiently and have no stress.


What message do you want to give to the community? 

I have a message to all the children’s parents and students that Phare not only provides arts education, but we also have a social support program. 

To those young people who face difficulties in learning, family dynamics, finances, and other matters, Phare social support is here waiting to help those cases, depending on individual circumstances. We help with consultation, financial support, supplies, and other donations following the families’ evaluation. Your problems are our work.

Phare Supplied Photo

What do you hope to see from Phare in the future?

I am looking forward to having more staff members here at Phare to help with the admission of countless students. 

With a larger team, we can streamline the process and better target at-risk children and their families. Furthermore, I wish to create a more integrated and collaborative environment among all the departments at Phare, with a great focus on working with children.

Contribute to Phare Ponleu Selpak’s Social Support program and witness how the arts and education empower Battambang children to thrive.


Chan Rattanakoudom works at Phare Ponleu Selpak
CHAN Rattanakoudom
Chan Rattanakoudom works as the Communications Assistant at Phare Ponleu Selpak and is an English Second Language Teacher. He dreams to be an English blog writer and wants to develop his communication skills. He loves to create and watch traveling videos in his free time besides reading.