Q&A with Ngin Sam Onn, Director of Operations at Shine Career School

img_9996Ngin Sam Onn, Director of Operations at Shine, has had a lot to celebrate these past two years: the first anniversary of his marriage, the birth of his daughter and his second anniversary here at Shine!

Hope for Justice’s Shine Career School offers high-quality, trauma-informed education, vocational training and intensive career-oriented courses for girls rescued from sex trafficking.

Sam Onn is most proud when a student can graduate, fully reintegrate into society and follow their dreams.

“It’s amazing that our Cambodian girls can come out of such a bad situation and completely turn their lives around. It’s important that they are ensured safety, the right to education, that they can eat healthily, be on their way to their dream job and ultimately change their lives.”

After working at Shine for two years, he has already seen a huge amount of change and he is constantly spurred on to greater successes. His top moments so far all revolve around the improvement and progression of his students, including one girl who has progressed amazingly quickly.

“When she first joined Shine in July 2016, she was completely illiterate in Khmer [the national language of Cambodia]. She has exceeded our expectations and is now at a very good standard, she is even in the higher grade for English. I’m really proud of her and really impressed with how she has conducted herself. I’m very happy to be one of the staff at Shine who is involved in her future.”

One of his greatest personal achievements has been attaining accreditation for the standard of grade 9. This means they are able to jump from grade 6 to grade 9 by national curriculum standards.


Being a huge soccer enthusiast and once semi-professional player, the fact there was previously no sports day at Shine did not sit well with Sam Onn. He took it on himself to implement one for the girls to take part in. It lets the girls learn how to work as a team, and really brings out their competitive sides!

Sam Onn always discusses the girls’ education with a proud smile and overwhelming enthusiasm for the success of his students. He drew our attention to a student who, while still at Shine, has also secured a paid job as a yoga teaching instructor. Another girl, whose passion for food means she dreams of being a chef, has gone through vocational training and is now employed at a well-established restaurant.

His vision is for the education standard and vocational training on offer to constantly improve – his tenacity and passion is plain to see for anyone who speaks with him.

“The students need to see that there is so much for them that caters to their talents and goals besides the work they were in before.

“I want Shine to be the best school in terms of providing a high standard of education with trauma-informed care, so we can open our doors to other girls from various shelters in Phnom Penh.”


He is rooting right now for Rany*, a student who is flying ahead at Shine and public school into grade 12. If she successfully passes grade 12, she has a chance of a paid scholarship and could even go on to study internationally. He exudes pride for his students and is keen to further grow the talented and caring team at Shine.

“I feel very lucky and blessed to be working with a team of people who love and will always help each other, even without asking. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”


*Survivor’s name changed for her protection

Article by Amy Powell and Adam Hewitt