Kim Phirum and Srun Sony, social workers, JRS Cambodia
I was first hired by JRS as a night guard in September 1991.  This was when the JRS office and house used to be near the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, and it was an old wooden house.  I knew the landlord, who told Sister Denise about me, and Sister Denise took me on as the night guard. Later, JRS needed a driver, so I worked both as a guard and driver.  Now I work for JRS as a driver and a social worker.  I have been with JRS for so long; JRS is a family to me.  

Before I worked with JRS I was enlisted in the CPP army after the Khmer Rouge went into hiding.  I spent about seven months in the forest on the Thai border fighting the Khmer Rouge; many people died in my group of soldiers.  

Between 1983 and 1984 I was sent to Russia for army training, where I learnt Russian and also how to fly Russian fighter jets.  I stopped my training due to health problems, and I came back to Cambodia and worked with the military at the airport.  After a few years, I wanted to look for other work, and this is when I spoke to the JRS landlord and got my job at JRS.  

I did not know anything about JRS before I started working here. I have learnt that JRS has helped so many people, both Cambodians and foreigners.  People who work with JRS have been very kind and loving. I only spoke a little bit of English when I started working with JRS and since then the staff have taught me more and more.  It helped that I knew some Russian because some English words were similar to Russian words.  

Many refugees in Cambodia have problems.  Because they cannot legally work, they have nothing to do.  Whenever I see them, whether it is in their houses during a home visit, or when they come to the office. I enjoy talking to them.  

Sometimes refugees have to wait a long time for a decision on their case; it can be a slow process, and they have to be patient, and this can be difficult.  Over the years, I have seen a few refugees get extremely frustrated with their situation here.  Some get angry with JRS because they think we should be doing more for them, but in most cases, we are not the decision-makers. On one occasion I had to intervene when a refugee tried to kill himself at the JRS office.  

When I see people we serve having difficulties I just try and be friendly to them, and talk with them.  I see that this cheers them up.  I like to make peace with people, and extend my friendship to them.  

Kim Phirum, social worker, JRS Cambodia

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