Krong Siem Reap, Siem Reap, Cambodia
My name is Phich Sokda, who also goes by the name Steven, is currently working for Hotel Link Solutions’s business development director, who like many Cambodians has a fascinating and inspiring story to tell.
I was born in 1986 in an ancient temple complex at Siem Reap, which is now an archeological park and the setting for the 2001 film Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. This was just after the civil war in Cambodia when many communities were traumatised and rural areas were gripped by famine.
In 1990, My father was forced by the government to become a soldier and was taken away from the family for four years. During this time my mother was left alone with five children, and it was five-year-old I work with the tourists in the temple complex that kept the family going. I would sometimes beg for food and money, I would sell post cards, musical instruments and guide books, and whenever I could I would act as a tourist guide.
Driven by a desire to forge a better life and a belief in the power of education, I studied English wherever and whenever I could – practicing on tourists, learning from anyone in the village who was able to teach me and also attending lessons in the city’s pagodas, which I paid for with whatever money I had left after buying food for my family. I focused on the future rather than the present, and each day I would walk the six-kilometre return trip to my primary school.
When I finished primary school I was determined to continue studying, even though all of my classmates had decided to drop out of school. Each day I walked the 24 kilometre return trip to the city, as there was no high school nearby.
Then, in 2001, I met an American lady who sponsored me to study English at the Australian Centre for Education, which I did until I completed my course in 2009. All the while I was attending high school and also working a low-paid job in a souvenir shop in the city.
After graduating from high school in 2007, I found a job in a local hotel as a receptionist, which was the stepping stone I needed to a job in the five-star Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, where I worked for four and a half years.
At the same time, the American lady also sponsor me through Build Bright University with tuition, books, room. I worked at hotel and used that to help my family situations which distributed in many ways such as foods, life conditions, school stationaries for my younger brother and sister and so on. Without her guidance and supported, I won't be able to come across a long bumpy roads till today.
After worked for four and a half years with Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa, I received a special opportunity to join Song Saa Private Island in 2012, and I was a valued member of the Song Saa family, gaining world-class experience in one of the region’s leading luxury resorts. I have relocated from Siem Reap city to Phom Penh capital because of my work at Song Saa. After 12 months, I have decided to leave from Song Saa Private Island and come back to Siem Reap due to living environment in capital was not match to my living conditions.
I have moved back to Siem Reap in 2013, I found a special opportunity to join Shinta Mani Club and Shinta Mani Resort with a stepping up in my career, and I was a valued member of the Shinta Mani family, The Shinta Mani Foundation seeks to be a leader in responsible tourism. The goal of the Shinta Mani Foundation (SMF) is to enhance the lives of individuals in the local communities where we operate - by increasing their human capital and providing them the tools to overcome the constraints of poverty.
The philosophy of Open Doors, Open Hearts of Shinta Mani's foundation operates today in the three core areas of education, small business start-ups and healthcare and this matched in my goals that I want to help the local communities.
Being with Shinta Mani Club and Shinta Mani Resort for almost 2 years, I have decided to leave Shinta Mani to access one of my close friend who owned the small property - La Residence Blanc D'Angkor which is 70% of the staff are students. The concept of La Residence Blanc D'Angkor is creating the job for students and support the less fortunate in Cambodia communities.
From here, I am presented in 2015 with a best opportunity in my career to manage a global company based in Cambodia - Hotel Link Solutions as Business Development Director.
My story is one of perseverance and positivity, and shows the value of education in helping young people to rise above their circumstances to realise their dreams.