A donation box placed at a cash counter in the China Duty Free Group's (Cambodia) shop in Phnom Penh, on September 12. (Photo: China Daily)
Prom Vichet is brimming with hope that he can continue to help Cambodian children improve their quality of life through art education, thanks largely to donations from a Chinese company since 2016.
Vichet is the executive director of the Khmer Artist for Children Organization which he founded in 2013.The nonprofit organization provides free art education to local children with the aim of helping them support their livelihood and preserve Khmer traditional and contemporary art.
On Tuesday, a team of volunteers from the sponsoring Chinese company, China Duty Free Group (Cambodia), visited the KAC, donating school supplies such as backpacks, books and pens to prepare the children for the new semester.
Established in 1984, China Duty Free Group is a unit of China's largest tourism conglomerate China National Travel Service Group Corp. CDFG established its first overseas subsidiary in Cambodia.
More than 90 percent of the volunteers who visited on Tuesday were local Cambodian staff of CDFG. During their visit, they shared with the children stories of Chinese virtues, cooked lunch and helped them clean up their premises.
CDFG has organized a series of charitable activities to support the KAC since 2016, when it first opened in Phnom Penh, its third duty-free shop in Cambodia after Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
"I am very happy that CDFG Cambodia has been helping us because we used to have a very difficult time managing the organization," said Vichet, highlighting the hardware upgrade provided by CDFG.
The company also helped the KAC build a kitchen, and a lavatory. It also involved other Chinese companies and organizations in Cambodia to provide help.
For example, starting August, the supplier of Chinese watch brand Fiyta initiated a campaign to donate $1 to the KAC for each watch sold at CDFG Cambodia, according to the travel retailer.
Vichet said the kindness from the CDFG helped bring hope to the children, which will encourage them to study harder and give back to society when they grow up.
"There are about 70 children at the KAC, most of whom are aged between 5 and 12," said Vichet, adding that the children are either orphans, or left-behind kids whose parents are working away from home, or from divorced or poor families that cannot afford school.
"Many kids at the KAC failed to receive proper education but here we teach them how to make a living through art. We teach them how to paint and make handicrafts, including wood carving and wax carving," said Vichet.
According to Vichet, a wax carving can be sold for about $30, of which $5 will be given to the child "artist" and the rest for managing the organization.
"It is important to care more about children because they are the hope and future of Cambodia," said Yin Yunxian, general manager at CDFG Cambodia's Phnom Penh Duty Free Store.
After the company came to Cambodia in 2013, it carried out various social responsibility initiatives with a focus on children. These included donations to a high school in Sihanoukville and a children's hospital in Siem Reap, according to Yin.
At the KAC, children not only learn artistic skills to make a living and show off the beauty of Cambodian art, but also learn how to face the vagaries of life with the right attitude, said Yin, whose office is adorned with a painting by the KAC children.
One of the children at the KAC, 16-year-old Kang Theary, said she always enjoys her time with the volunteers from CDFG because she could feel their warmth and care.
"My favorite part was when they taught us how to sing, how to wash our hands and how to speak some basic Chinese," said Kang, while confessing with a shy smile that she often forgets the vocabulary.
Yin said the charitable activities involving employees from Cambodia and China can also help promote mutual understanding among staff of different background.
As of end August, CDFG Cambodia had over 600 employees, of which 94 percent were recruited locally.
Cheem SongDy, sales supervisor at CDFG's Phnom Penh Duty Free Shop, has visited the KAC with groups of CDFG volunteers several times. "I feel happy to be part of these social activities because I can share our values and experiences with the children," said Cheem.
General Manager Yin said CDFG Cambodia has kept multiple "love boxes" at its cash counters to collect tips and donate them all to the KAC. Children's artworks are also displayed in their stores for sale.
Yin hopes more companies and organizations in Cambodia can pay heed to the future of children in the country and help them fulfill their dreams.
Meanwhile, seeing the children's interest in learning Chinese, Vichet of KAC said he hopes to have a Chinese teacher in the future.