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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Building confidence through music

Sitting under the shade of a tamarind tree, 16-year-old Pany strikes a chord on her khim, bringing alive the unmistakable melodies that have been part of Cambodian culture for centuries. She smiles as she sings, backed up by fellow members of a traditional Khmer music group, which ChildFund supports.

“I was a completely different person four years ago when I first joined the Phleng Khmer music group,” says Pany. “Phleng Khmer has helped me discover my potential and refine it.”

Phleng Khmer is part of the Children’s Voice initiative, which ChildFund is implementing to introduce vocational and cultural activities to village schools in Svay Rieng.

Students have been quick to get on board the program and embrace their cultural heritage, says Saroun, a music teacher who strongly believes in the importance of creativity in a child’s development.

Many children in rural villages are unable to access vocational activities such as music because their schools do not have enough facilities or equipment.

According to Saroun, it is important that students learn these skills so they can develop their creativity, a love of learning and reach their full potential.

“Music is not just a form of entertainment, it is an art that builds up people’s spirits and personalities, especially for children,” says Saroun.

Pany’s mother, Phary, has also noticed a difference in her daughter since the Children’s Voice program begun. Always a keen singer, she agrees that Pany has overcome her shyness, which previously prevented her from performing in public in the past.

Cambodian teenager Pany feels like a new person since learning to play the khim through the Children’s Voice program

Members of the Phleng Khmer group have impressed their teacher with their eagerness to learn traditional Khmer music

Phany’s family and neighbours often watch her perform her music and provide support

The 16-year-old now performs in front of her extended family and neighbours regularly and does shows at social events throughout her village.

“I am now so confident,” says Pany. “I have the opportunity to perform at events and am happy as I have the ability to earn an income to support my studies by doing performances.”

Currently, Phany can play around 10 traditional Khmer songs on her khim, but she dreams of learning how to play contemporary songs on instruments like the piano and guitar. In the future, Phany hopes to audition for The Voice Cambodia and study to become a music professional. She looks forward to being able to perform like local celebrities Oak Sokunkanha and Khat Sokhim.

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