Imagine fleeing from the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge to go to the “American dream” but to be greeted by drugs, gangs and murders. This is what Kosal Khiev had to go through. In 1981 when Kosal was just a baby his family and him fled to America to escape the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge and live a better life but instead they had to live in grim public housing with scarce social services. Kosal Khiev visited a bunch of UWC Students right before chinese new year, at the east conference to tell them about his experiences, he talked about how he they should try to avoid making these decisions.
Kosal joined the gang at the age of 13 because he felt that these people could understand his feelings. At the age of 16 he got arrest for suspected murder where he got convicted for 14 years. During the 14 years of his sentence he met a former Vietnamese war veteran who taught him about spoken word poetry. The vietnamese war veteran taught him that spoken word poetry was a way to channel his angers, regrets, experience and thoughts into a form of art. One of the turning points for him was when he was in the solitary confinement and he was doing some spoken word poetry where the other people in the solitary confinement cells encouraged him to continue and that helped him get through it. Another turning point for Kosal was when he was in solitary confinement and he was broken down and he realized that if he didn’t change it would mean that he would have to spend the rest of his life like this.
After spending 14 years in state jail he was free and decided that he had to give up his bad decisions and try and make a difference in the world. He discovered that poetry was able to change a person's perspective and outlook. After that he got deported back to Cambodia and he worked as a Facilitator in the Prison Peace Project, a corrections programme because he didn’t want kids to make the same mistakes that he made. He was living the hard life because he quit his job at the cinema as a projectionist and pursued his art of poetry, some nights he would stay up all night or crash on other people's houses because he couldn’t support himself. When he got chosen to represent Cambodia for the Cultural Olympiad it was a life changing experience for him as it allowed him to repent and tell people about his past. After being an Cultural Olympiad he realised that spoken art or poetry is what he wanted to do.
Kosal has influenced many people from pre-teen kids to adults with his inspiring story. He has proven that no matter how dire the situation is it there is always a silver lining. He had spent 14 years in jail and channeled his emotions into spoken word poetry. He has changed lives all over the world. Kosal Khiev has shown us that if you want to change it is possible.
When Kosal Khiev came to UWCSEA he told us about how he made bad life choice and implied that we should think before we act, think about the consequences our actions can have. He told the UWCSEA student that the life choices they make can affect how they make decision in the future.
Personally when listening to Kosal it made me rethink how I would deal with situations which seem that has no possible good outcome, he has taught me to find that little silver lining within the thundercloud. It was one of the greatest experience listening to Kosal as we got to see that bad part of the world where there is murderers and drugs.