Cambodian Handicraft Association for Landmine and Polio Disabled (CHA) | Hay Kim Tha | Interview

Established in 2000, the Cambodian Handicraft Association for Landmine and Polio Disabled (CHA) mission is to support young women with disabilities in participating in normal community life by providing vocational training, education and empowerment. Its activities actively empower and give women confidence and encouragement in themselves. CHA Director, Hay Kim Tha talks to i-genius about setting up his organisation.i-genius: Why did you start CHA? Hay Kim Tha: We started CHA in order to support the young women with disabilities and poverty in the rural villages did nothing at homes, and they lost their hope in their life, and CHA would like them to start a new kill for new life to integrate into Cambodian society. i-genius: What makes a good candidate for a Director of a company? Kim Tha: The program sustains 20-25 students at any one time. On graduation (when students are skilled and confident in themselves) employment is found. A number of past students have stayed on to become teachers to new students. i-genius: In what way is CHA a social enterprise/NGO? Kim Tha: The program is a bit successful but run on a very minimal budget.  The management is very prudent – there is little scope to provide resources beyond a “bare bones “approach to the full program including English learning (run by volunteers); life skills; recreation and creativity; and counselling.. The impact on the students’ lives is immeasurable.  The young women go from not being confident and with low esteem to happy, confident individuals willing to take on the challenges of earning a living for themselves and their families. i-genius: What difficulties did you experience setting up CHA? Kim Tha: We started the program with a small capitals, and we rented a house for the program, and the owners of each house where we rented always sold them, and the new owners did not want to rent it to us, so they made us waste time and money to move and it was difficult to find funds to spend on the move. i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow CHA? Kim Tha: CHA got the Local communities and social workers who recommended students to CHA.  All students are from disadvantaged families. In recent times CHA is experiencing a number of pressures on its revenue stream including dwindling sales due to market saturation and increased demand for their services. They have been working to increase their product line and find new wholesale markets under the CHA Business Sustainability Strategy 2014-2016 developed and funded through our friendship with others that have been interested in helping our program. – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Operation ASHA | Dr. Shelly Batra | Interview

Operation ASHA is on a mission to expand access to services and products of a high quality at affordable prices to disadvantaged communities worldwide with a focus on delivery of health services. They do this by providing the last mile connectivity, i.e. service delivery at the doorsteps of the under-served. Its vision is of a healthy society, where preventable diseases and infant and maternal mortality have been significantly decreased, and healthy lifespan extended to all by curtailment of disease. i-genius spoke with Operation ASHA’s President, Dr. Shelly Batra to find out more. –– i-genius: Why did you start Operation ASHA? Dr. Shelly Batra: I started Operation ASHA to serve the poorest of the poor. I want to put an end to the TB epidemic. After all, the disease is fully curable, and why should the world suffer so much, with 8 million new cases of TB each year? We have made matters worse by creating Drug-resistant TB, which happens when patients leave their treatment halfway. I want to ensure every dose taken to prevent Drug-resistant TB. I want to tell every TB patient, “Come on guys, be brave! have your medicine regularly!” – i-genius: In a nutshell, what is T and why is it important to raise awareness of it? Dr. Batra: TB is a bacterial infection, a 5000 year old disease. It has existed since the time of the Pharoahs. It is fully curable, and treatment is there for free,  but in 5000 years we haven’t succeeded in getting rid of it. We have eradicated small pox and the plague, (for which there was no cure!), but things have gone from bad to worse in TB, for not only are the numbers increasing (9 million NEW cases each year) but also the disease is back with a vengeance in a more deadly avatar, that of Drug-resistant TB. – i-genius: What are good candidates for a company President? Dr. Batra: A good candidate for Prez? Well, he or she must be strong willed but not obstinate, determined but willing to take things easy when the going gets tough, also firm and flexible at the same time, one who makes the team adhere to rules but is willing to break rules to motivate, encourage and push forward. – i-genius: Who has been your inspiration? Dr. Batra: Mrs Maclure. My English teacher, decades ago, when I was studying in La Martiniere Girls’ school Lucknow. Alas, she is no more, but I remember her with so much love, for she loved English literature and she enthused me with the same love for books and poetry. By sheer perseverance, she succeeded in dinning the rudiments of English grammer into reluctant heads. When I feel I cannot go on anymore, I just think of her, and say to myself, by golly! if she could do it, so can I! – i-genius: How does Operation ASHA make money? Dr. Batra: OpASHA is a like a business which doesn’t make money. I have a CEO and COO and a strong middle management, and field staff. I believe in best business practices. But the biz is treating TB, which does not generate revenue, (rather it guzzles up money), and the biz provides a social good, and gives an incredible SROI ie Social Return on Investment of 3217%. As I tell the donors, tell me, which investment can give you this kind of return? Of course, the returns go to the patient, but that’s another story. – i-genius: What difficulties did you experience in setting up OpASHA? Dr. Batra: Only three difficulties – funds, funds and more funds. When i started OpASHA, nobody knew about TB, nobody cared. so there were no funds. I used up my savings, an incredibly stupid thing to do, according to my friends, who alternately kept ridiculing me or pitying me, depending upon the mood. Then I would borrow money to pay salaries. I spent 3 years of my life living one jump ahead of the creditors and constant fear of the law catching up with me. – i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow OpASHA? Dr. Batra: For 9 years, I have been continuously talking, till I am hoarse. I am still talking! Never a minute’s rest to the poor overworked vocal cords! Why? To raise  awareness about TB, to raise funds, to explain the program, to gives lectures across the world, to create collaborations, to do advocacy for policy change, you name it, I have done it. And still doing. – i-genius: OpASHA does work in Cambodia and India. Why these two countries? Dr. Batra: India is my country. I am proud to be in an Indian. But I am ashamed to announce that India has the highest TB burden in the world, with numbers far exceeding second ranking China. TB is the biggest health crisis that India is facing, with 2 million new cases and 400,000 deaths annually. Operation ASHA started work in Delhi and has now replicated across 9 states. it is working in urban slums, villages, hard to reach tribal areas, and conflict ridden zones. In 2010 we started work in Cambodia. One of our board members who was teaching law in Pnom penh, was shocked at the magnitude of the problem, and he put in the seed money and raised funds to start the work. – i-genius: What are OpASHA’S future plans? Dr. Batra: To go to scale. Replicate in all high burden countries. Replicate wherever the need is. Help others replicate. Become a resource centre to train other NGOs and governments to replicate our model. Train health workers. Carry out research. Upgrade technology for other diseases. – i-genius: Do you have a favourite motto? Dr. Batra: my motto – If at once you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. – i-genius: What’s the worse business advice you have received? Dr. Batra: Worst business advice – take a big salary as President, you deserve it. Had I done that, we would have sunk without a trace. – – This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius Getting Started interview series. If you would like to learn how to get started in your social business, then why not take our ‘Getting Started – Social Business Start Up’ online course with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!
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Blue Chili Bar

Our first Cambodian member, Somchat ‘Oak’ Chan-Ngoen, takes some time out of running his bar in Phnom Penh to speak to i-genius about his initiative and inspiration… Editor: What is your story? Oak: I come from a poor family in Bangkok. I studied languages at High School and went to Ramkhamhang University where I studied marketing. I worked part-time in bars and a cinema. I then moved to Cambodia to do teaching and worked with a actress before opening my bar. Editor: Why did you open a gay bar in Cambodia? Oak: Although Cambodia is changing very quickly, it can still be difficult for gay people to meet others. I hope my bar will help them. I am very happy trying to make Cambodia a better place. I like Cambodian people. Sometimes I think they are like Thai people, only the language is different. This country needs foreigners, it needs tourists.   Editor:Is it easy to run a bar in Phnom Penh? Oak: I designed my bar with the help of a Kumar friend and with the help of a English friend called John. I have to teach staff how to serve customers. Its important to smile and make eye contact and to have good hygiene. Me and my business partner help staff to go to university. I think this is important. Food and accommodation is free and I give them time and space to study. Everything is fine here except for police corruption. They came to me and asked for money and in exchange I would get a piece of paper saying I was ‘protected’. I said, “I don’t want any paper. I know your problem. You are paid very little. If you need money for food or your family, just ask me and I will give to you. But I don’t want any paper”. They never returned. I think they were embarrassed or feel ashamed. Editor: That’s an amazing story. Do you feel optimistic about the future? Oak: I am making money and I am successful but money is not so important. I care about making my customers, whether they gay or straight, happy. My bar has a family feeling. Maybe in the future I would like a bigger place with a restaurant and disco. I am thinking about increasing my prices by 10% to have money to help children. Maybe create a language school for kids. I have good friends and family. I really appreciate the help I have had and want to thank my partner and staff.
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