“I was always dreaming of becoming a drummer, but my life has changed after I broke my limb.”

handmade wooden artwork
Tuon Sochea is holding a handmade wooden artwork inside the Khmer Life workshop in Phnom Penh.

Inside a small workshop in Phnom Penh on a February afternoon, a 32-year-old man was carving a wood, while listening to music from a small radio.

Tuon Sochea is short for his age, as he has complicated limbs. He said he fell from a tree when he was 13, and since then he thought his dreams would be dreams forever.

The eldest of four siblings, Tuon was born from a peasant family in Kampong Thom province, 200 kilometer from the capital city. Since he quit school at Grade 1, he had spent his days tending cattle and helping his parents in the rice field.

“I was always dreaming of playing drums and I wish to perform in an orchestra back then. The drumbeats really captivated me when I was young,” said Tuon.

But, he never had a chance to play drums nor any musical instrument.

In 2008, the Village Works, which employs villagers to produce handicrafts, offered Tuon to learn wood and coconut shell carving in Phnom Penh.

Such opportunity opened a new chapter of his life.

From daydreaming in the fields with the cows, Tuon moved in to the city and got employed. He regularly sends money to his parents back home.

After two years, he transferred to Khmer Life, where he has been employed for nearly 10 years now. He eventually became a senior instructor, overseeing a small group of craftsmen.

“I earn a small amount of money but I can save and send some to my family in the province,” Tuon said, adding that his parents are now in their late 80s.

He is very happy to work for Khmer Life not only because he could support his parents, but also he became proud of himself for not ending up begging money from other people.

Recommending Khmer handmade products to all buyers and supporters is a way to help improve the lives of craftsmen in Cambodia, Tuon said.

He might have given up his dream to become a musician, but he never gave up dreaming.

Tuon wishes to have his own business in the future, despite not having enough capital and marketing skills at the moment.

He lives each day believing in some magic as his music goes on.

About the author – Sophal Bun

Sophal Bun

Sophal Bun is an Export Consultant for Export Assistance Program Cambodia. He received a full scholarship and graduated a Master degree of International Journalism Studies from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2014. He also earned another MA degree in Development Studies from Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2012.