Reflections of an International Student working with This Life

I am Soraya, a 25-year-old Spanish student from the University of Paris Cite in France. I joined This Life in March 2022 as a research intern and participated in the Child-Friendly Spaces project that operates in Siem Reap prison.

The Child-Friendly Space is essentially a kindergarten for children that accompany their mothers in prison, during periods of incarceration.  For many people, this type of practice and arrangement may be surprising, but it is not uncommon, especially in low-income economies.

For the last five months, I provided operational and strategic support to the team working on this project.

This helped me with my studies, which involved reflecting on the experiences of children, their mothers living behind bars, distanced from family and friends.  Also, the social workers who help bridge the collateral damage that imprisonment invariably produces.  Thanks to This Life, I have been able to develop my academic and professional interests and deepen my understanding of Cambodia, its culture, customs and practice.

Looking to the future I plan to continue advocating for both children’s human rights and improving access to early years education within the prison environment. I am a Ph.D. candidate, a student for life but above all else, a student of life.

This Life is an organization that welcomes staff from mixed backgrounds who approach Khmer society with different perspectives. Over the last months, the staff have helped me to understand Khmer culture and improve my language skills.

This Life HQ is situated in a central location in Siem Reap and provides ample office space to work and take coffee breaks in the local coffee shops.  There is a quiet room and a counselling/playroom on the ground floor.  All of which were extremely helpful during those times when I needed to refocus myself and my thoughts.

Staff from This Life also take time to socialise together in their free time, especially to celebrate their many achievements and participate in sports events. In August 2022, I had the opportunity to run the Angkor Half Marathon with more than 50 staff.

This Life is a professional organisation that delivers good work to those in need.  It has challenged me in my day to thinking and provided me with lots of new friends.  To this end, I say thank you to This Life and thank you to all the people that make this place special with creative ideas, inspiration, and innovation.


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