by Sinn MEANG, founder of Volunteer Building Cambodia
A Humble Start to A Journey of Purpose
I'm the youngest of five in my family, growing up in a floating village near the Vietnamese border. Life was far from easy – our house, made of bamboo and palm leaves, leaked during the rainy season, and the river's floods would force us to relocate regularly.
Tragedy struck early; my father fell victim to the Khmer Rouge in 1977 when I was just a year old. Left with my mother and two older sisters, we struggled to make ends meet. Education was a luxury – my sisters worked in rice fields and fishing, while I embarked on a daily boat journey to a primary school, sometimes walking miles during the dry season to attend secondary school.
It was during these challenging times that my determination took root. I stayed near a Buddhist temple to study during school breaks, all the while witnessing my family's hard work for mere pennies. Unable to continue my studies due to financial constraints, I moved to Phnom Penh to work in construction.
The Birth of Volunteer Building Cambodia
My first job paid a meager $1.25 a day, but I refused to settle for poverty. Learning became my lifeline; after work, I taught myself English and computer skills. This dedication earned me promotions and opportunities, ultimately leading to a senior construction manager position.
In time, I managed the construction of a luxurious 5-star hotel in Siem Reap. However, my heart yearned for more than just personal success. In 2014, Volunteer Building Cambodia was born. Seeing families living in conditions mirroring my childhood sparked a fire in me. I founded VBC with a mission to improve lives by constructing homes, wells, and toilets.
Transforming Lives Through the Power of Community
Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC) is a dynamic force for positive change, dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged communities in Siem Reap. Established with a mission to provide not just shelter but hope, education, and empowerment, VBC has evolved its approach over the years to deliver tangible impact.
In its early stages, VBC comprised a small team of three: a builder, and a volunteer coordinator and myself. Our journey began by constructing houses from palm fronds, a process that took several weeks. Over time, we refined its methods, streamlining house construction to a remarkable one-week project, with some houses completed in just three days. Today, each house is crafted from timber with a tin roof, ensuring durability and comfort for the families.
Central to our journey is the power of community and volunteer involvement. Our team, along with volunteers from around the world, comes together to create meaningful change. These volunteers, driven by a shared commitment to social impact, make a real difference in the lives of Cambodian people. They don't just build houses; they build hope, possibilities, and connections that span borders. The diverse contributions of our volunteers enrich VBC's mission, showcasing the strength that comes from uniting hearts and hands for a common purpose.
One Step at a Time
My journey from a challenging childhood to a determined entrepreneur has led me to this point. From my early struggles in a floating village, I embraced a simple truth – that taking that first step, no matter how daunting, is essential to progress. As I reflect on the growth of Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC) and its transformative impact, this philosophy remains at the heart of our journey.
My story is one of transforming adversity into opportunity, and today, VBC stands as a testament to the power of change.
A significant milestone marked the completion of VBC's 400th house, reflecting the organization's commitment to sustainable development. Beyond housing, a community center and English language school were also built, providing education and opportunities to more than 200 students, with a focus on empowering girls in a region where their education is often neglected.
So, as you contemplate your own ambitions, remember that the journey begins with that first step. It's the courage to start, the persistence to continue, and the unwavering commitment to impact that lay the foundation for remarkable achievements. Just as VBC has evolved from its early days, your vision can flourish into reality. Embrace that first step, and let it guide you toward a future where transformation is not a distant dream, but a continuous journey of progress and purpose.
The more you give, the more you get!
I have a deep-rooted passion for helping people – it's what drives me every day. The ability to make a meaningful difference in people's lives fills me with immense joy and purpose. Connecting with individuals from all corners of the globe allows me to exchange knowledge and experiences, enriching my perspective on the world. At Volunteer Building Cambodia (VBC), this passion takes tangible form. Through our projects and initiatives, we not only build homes but also foster empowerment and education. Every interaction, every exchange of ideas, every shared experience is a step towards creating a brighter future for the communities we serve.
As I continue to contribute to this transformative journey, I am reminded that mentorship is not just about offering guidance – it's about igniting the spark of possibility in others and collectively working towards a better world. I will continue my journey and share my knowledge to help people build their social entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses.
Mr. Sinn MEANG will be mentoring RightNow's first Social Entrepreneur Program launching in January 2024.