Villager Stories

Smach Village: The Story of Nuot & Pavary

The sewing center opens in 2010 and the first class of trainee includes Nuot and Pavary. At the time, the two of them are in their early twenties and still living with their parents at the farm. Culturally, it is time for Pavary to think about marriage, and as is the often the case, she discusses potential bachelors with her friends.

Sewing center trainee class of 2010
Present: Pavary & Nuot Kaet
Also present: CFI team, founder John Whaley
Smach Village, Sen Sok, Cambodia

During the training, Pavary also gets to meet new people. In a village like Smach, social gatherings are often limited to religious or civic activities, leaving only wedding parties for people like Pavary and Nuot to socialize. But at the center, they get to know each other and both soon realize how much they enjoy spending time with one another. Friends and family become supportive of their union.

Pavary and Nuot get married in 2011 but the local organization in charge of management at the sewing center closes the operation and the sewers are out of a job. Community First won’t be able to reopen the center under its management until spring 2012. This forces the newlywed couple to go back to their old lives, seeking labor in Thailand hoping their new skills will make things easier for them.

Pavary & Nuot in spring 2012
Smach Village, Sen Sok, Cambodoa

As a result, Pavary and Nuot decide to cross over the border into Thailand to find work.

They manage to arrange for transportation through a ‘guide’ who can make the necessary arrangements. Pavary and Nuot eventually arrive near the Thai border, and at nighttime they join a group of other Cambodian migrant worker to walk 30 miles through the dense jungle into Thailand, illegally.

Overnight, the young couple climbs hills and mountains, into what is essentially uncharted territory and where there are no road and very few tracks. They have to rely on the skills and knowledge of their guide in order to find their way and avoid all the dangers of the nighttime Southeast Asian jungle.

The stakes are high, as they risk arrest and their ability to return Cambodia is then not guaranteed. Many families in Sen Sok have a relative who once went to find work as an illegal migrant worker in Thailand, but never returned. Some like to think it’s because they found good fortune, but other villagers often fear the worse has happened and that their loved ones will never come back.

Thankfully, Pavary and Nuot make it safely through the jungle, and continue their journey with their guide all the way to Bangkok. There, the couple’s hopes of skilled labor are soon forgotten and they are both hired as construction workers, as is commonly the case with Cambodian illegal immigrants.

On the construction site of a new skyscraper in downtown Bangkok, the couple works eight hours of painful labor a day, carrying concrete, bricks and other heavy materials in a dangerous environment. Accidents are common and there is no insurance or healthcare the workers can hope for.

Pavary and Nuot find shelter but little comfort in the makeshift camp setup for the workers on the constructions site. There, she can stay with her husband but they have to share their space with many other couples and their resources and supplies are limited. Nuot makes a little less than eight dollars a day, but the frail Pavary only manages to bring five dollars home everyday, as she cannot do as much of the physical work as her husband care.

During their time working as illegal migrants, Pavary and Nuot must live into hiding, and do their best to avoid being found by the local authorities. Unfortunately they are caught one night by the police, and are forced to pay the police officer $20.00 to avoid arrest.

Soon after those events, Pavary is with child. Once the pregnancy becomes more visible and harder to hide, their boss explains that he would rather have the couple leave, as death or injury to the unborn would bring ‘bad luck’ to his project. They are fired immediately.

In March 2012, the couple feels they have no other choice but to return to Cambodia, as they have already lost a lot of money and their future is most uncertain for the two of them and their unborn child.

Pavary and her co-workers with the local elders, praying in honor of the reopening of the sewing center, and the good fortune it brings to their community.

At their hometown, where they grew up as children and where their relatives live, they are surprised and overjoyed to find the sewing center reopened, and hiring. Both of them eagerly apply for a job there and are hired on the spot as qualified sewers.

Today, Pavary is preparing to become a mother for the first time, with her husband by her side, and the knowledge that they will be able to provide for their child, thanks to their stable jobs – the future has never looked better for Pavary!

Thanks to your continued support Community First is able to bring sustainable and positive changes in the lives of the mothers and children of Sen Sok Commune.