Hyphenate business man, Soreasmey Ke Bin is the Founder of the Anvaya Initiative, a social network for oversea Cambodians and returnees based in Phnom Penh. He also Co-Founded the country’s first IT Engineering company Khmer Dev, runs a graphic and web design studio Around Design, and a trading company importing European lingerie and swimwear to Cambodia. With over 100 Anvaya members, they also help to connect individuals with job searching and internship assistance.
Since its inception in 2009, Anvaya’s will be coordinating their first public charity event with the Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) this upcoming February. Cambodian Artists (Dengue Fever, Laura Mam and The Like Me’s) from all over the world will perform side by side with local celebrities (Meas Soksophea, Klap Ya Handz) at this unprecedented event.
“Life and business have not been always easy here, it’s really different from what I’ve known in France, it’s very challenging, I guess this is the same for all westerners at first. But then, when you have a Khmer background, you discover that somewhat you are not so different from people living here. Not totally a stranger.” – Soreasmey
Are you 100% Cambodian? If not, what else?
Soreasmey: Nope, I’m half Cambodian and half French, my father is Khmer, and my mother French
Where were you born and where do you reside?
Soreasmey: I was born in Lyons, France. My Father is Cambodian, he moved to France in the 60s to study there, and he met my mother during his university time.
My father went to Thailand in the 80s, and then Cambodia after the peace agreement in 1991. I’m not sure if it was his idea at first to stay there, but now he’s living there, and my sister, and myself have joined him in Phnom Penh.
What brought you back to live in Cambodia permanently?
Soreasmey: Since my father moved back, I used to spend most of my summer vacations in Cambodia. I then did a-6 months internship in Phnom Penh during my university time. It gave me a good idea of what life could be like there, though the country really changed since then. Back in France I was willing to join the French army as an officer, but for some reasons I didn’t, my father then told me to come to Cambodia and give it a try, and now it has been 7 years and I’m still here.
Life and business have not been always easy here, it’s really different from what I’ve known in France, it’s very challenging, I guess this is the same for all westerners at first. But then, when you have a Khmer background, you discover that somewhat you are not so different from people living here. Not totally a stranger.
When did you start the Anvaya initaitive?
Soreasmey: The ANVAYA Initiative was launched in the end of 2009. I’ve been involved for several years in the French-Cambodian Chamber of Commerce (as Secretary general), it was really interesting but somehow there’s always a difference between pure foreigners and “returnees”. By then, I tried to gather all French Cambodians in the chamber together, but it was not that easy, as a chamber of commerce is all about business. We brought by then several young French Cambodians as trainees, which gave them a good idea of what Cambodia is like today. Two of them have come back and have lived here since.
One of my good friend is an American-Cambodian. Through him I met several of them. French, American, or Australian returnees, no matter how unique the personal stories were, it was clear that we all shared a similar direction. Over the years, we noticed that more and more foreign born/raised Khmers were not only visiting for vacation but, amazingly, were accepting the challenges of staying here to live, work, and help. This is very different from the previous generation, as we are totally western-educated, and as most of us never lived here. We do not have the same relation with the country as our parents have. That’s how we came with the idea of creating a structure, The Anvaya initiative, for both gathering all the returnees here, and also helping those willing to leave the western world to come back here. So finally, we decided to set up a forum to bring us all to a common point for discussion, networking, and exchange. This social network will soon and hopefully become a real association.
What are some of Anvaya’s activities?
Soreasmey: Since we launched a year ago, we have been meeting every month, having a few drinks together, to welcome the newbies and also to exchange news and information. We have between 20 to 60 people every time. The girls within our network are also organizing a monthly dinner. We also offer Khmer classes each Saturday morning.
We plan to organize more activities, indoor, outdoor, to strengthen the bounds inside our small community. This is for the inside, but we also hope to be able to play a real role toward the Cambodian society as a whole.
How can your organization assist in job searching an internships?
Soreasmey: Anvaya has over 100 members actually living in Cambodia, all of them are working in big companies and NGO, Anvaya is just doing the link. Companies here are always looking for managers, and overseas Cambodians to fit the profile. If you are looking for a job or an internship in IT, we will put you in contact with our members working on that field, same for banking, or hospitality etc. Since the creation, we helped a dozen people finding job opportunities or internship, though our organization is still perfectible.
What is your favorite Khmer Dish?
Soreasmey: Kho sat chrrouk, not sure how u spell that.
Where do you see Anvaya Initiative in 5 years?
Soreasmey: Its a bit too early to say, but we do hope to establish ourselves as a link between Cambodia and the overseas communities. We hope for the Governement to recognize the role and potential of those communities. We will both serve as an association and why not as a “Chamber of Commerce” providing services to entrepreneurs. This is what Vietnam is doing now, they recognize the overseas Viets as a major force and help to their development, we think we could do the same, or even better here.
Anvaya Initiative is currently seeking performers for the charity event to take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in February 19, 2011. Overseas Khmer artists will perform for the first time with local celebrities. Confirmed talents such as Dengue Fever, Laura Mam and The Like Me’s, Meas Soksophea, KlapYaHandz, etc.
If any US, Canadian, European, French Cambodian artists are willing to join this event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally Posted by Sophia S.
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