Mr. Chea Sarin, known as Sarin, has been the Administrator of the Spitler School since its establishment in 2005. With the help and support of his wife, Mary, and their two daughters, Vita and Vitee, Sarin has impacted the lives of hundreds of children and village families. What he has accomplished is even more amazing when you consider his early years were filled with tragedy and sadness, not only for Sarin and his family, but for everyone in Cambodia.
Early Years and Hardships
Sarin was born in 1974 during the Cambodian civil war. One year after Sarin’s birth, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country. When Sarin was only 2 years old, his father was executed by the Khmer Rouge extremists, who went on a bloody genocide to rid the country of anyone with an education, whom they viewed a threat. Aside from the hundreds of thousands of killings, many people died indirectly at the hands of the Khmer Rouge due to starvation and disease. Sadly, two of Sarin’s sisters succumbed to starvation and another died from dengue fever, a disease that still afflicts thousands of children in Cambodia each year. Cambodia suffered a loss of 25% of its population during the Khmer Rouge regime.
As a Child After the Khmer Rouge
In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1981, when Sarin was seven years old, Sarin’s family decided to make the 125-kilometer walk to the border of Thailand in search of safety. The journey was hazardous through a countryside blanketed with land mines. After traveling many days, Sarin’s family found refuge in a UN camp.
Despite this hardship, Sarin decided at the age of 12 to leave his family and live with Buddhist monks in order to gain an education. Three years later, Sarin moved to an orphanage supported by a Japanese NGO (non-governmental organization) which provided education to the orphanage children.
Following His Passions After School
Sarin’s family returned to Cambodia, and after Sarin graduated, he returned to his hometown to work on the family farms. He later moved to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh for work. During his time in Phnom Penh, Sarin suffered from typhoid fever, which is very common in Cambodia due to the lack of clean water and sanitation.
Sarin returned home, saved enough money to enroll in a tourism school. As a tour guide, Sarin would take travelers to the Ang Chagn village, which is deemed to be the poorest community in Siem Reap. It was through these visits that Sarin learned of the lack of clean water and education in the village community.
In 2005, Sarin established an NGO called “CMP” to drill clean water wells throughout Siem Reap. Also in 2005, Sarin met Danny and Pam Spitler and shared with them his passion for both clean water and education within the Ang Chagn Village. Sarin and the Spitlers began their partnership and established the Spitler School Foundation.
Despite all that Sarin had endured in life, his heart is filled with gratitude for those who helped provide him with an education, safety, and a future. Because of this gratitude, Sarin’s passion is to do all that he can to provide the same to those in need.