DDD’s social impact programs transform the lives of youth who participate. After training with DDD, these workers find professional jobs and earn higher incomes; they become confident and are empowered to take initiative. The personal stories below vividly illustrate the impact of DDD on the lives of young men and women and their families. In addition, current and former participants in DDD's program tell their stories in their own words, in our ebook, "The Confidence to Dream".
Recent Stories of Change:
A Young Man’s Journey out of Rural Poverty: Honda Nakseangchanh, Laos
As a boy growing up in Vientiane province in Laos, Honda Nakseangchanh knew he had to find a way out of the grinding poverty that had trapped his family and the generations before it. Employment opportunities outside of farming were few in the mostly rural Phonhong District. The typical villager is a subsistence farmer tilling a plot of exhausted land to plant rice and other crops.
Honda’s father, a farmer, struggled to raise a family with seven children but was able to send Honda, the youngest, to school. When Honda finished high school, however, the family barely had enough money to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Getting a college degree was a luxury his parents could not afford. Honda, who believed that education was the way out of poverty resolved to find a way to support his studies. He found that opportunity by joining DDD’s work-study program.
Soon, Honda found himself working as a Data Management Operator (DMO) at DDD’s office in Vientiane. For the past three years, he has worked on various client projects including eBook conversion, digitizing magazines and journals, and creating online archives for publications. “Before DDD, I didn’t know anything about computers” he said, with a hint of disbelief over how far he has come. “DDD is the best place for young people like me to start professional work, continue learning and improve ourselves,” he said.
In addition to working at DDD, Honda attends the Lao National University where he is majoring in Computer Science. Described by supervisors and peers as talented, hardworking and quick to learn, Honda is now a candidate for promotion to the project management team. He also enjoys the benefits he receives at DDD – from intensive training in English, life skills and personal effectiveness to subsidized school fees, health and accident insurance.
Now 20, Honda feels confident that after graduating from university, he will find a high-paying job outside DDD where he can be successful, give his family a better life and, inspire young men and women from his rural community.
Walking Past Disability: Bouddy Siribang, Laos
Like many in Laos, Bouddy Siribang was born to a hard-working but poor family. The fifth of six children, Bouddy attended a nearby primary school where she was sometimes the object of ridicule among other children because of a distinct limp in her left leg – a stark reminder of the state of medical care given in Laos.
When Bouddy was barely two years old, she was taken by her mother to a local clinic for fever. The clinic attendant administered an injection into Bouddy’s leg without checking the proper dosage. The consequences of this did not become apparent until weeks later, when Bouddy had trouble walking. After visiting a rehabilitation center, her parents learned that Bouddy’s condition was caused by the drugs injected into her leg.
While Laos has undergone significant socio-economic development in recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists Laos as one of the countries in the Western Pacific Region with the lowest ranking in health service quality. In particular, the WHO identified drug safety as one of the challenges that needs to be addressed for Laos to achieve its goal of becoming a middle income country by 2020.
It would have been easy for Bouddy to use her disability as a reason to not work hard but that was not how she saw life. She did well in school; always at the top of her class and for this, she earned the respect of her peers. “I never felt different from my classmates because I knew I could do what they were doing.” She added, “Some people would mock how I walked but I joked that they would end up with a limp for the rest of their lives if they continued to do that. And they often stopped!”, she remarked.
Though armed with an accounting degree from Pakpasack College Bouddy often found herself interviewing for jobs only to walk away without an offer. “My condition might have been a factor. Those companies might have looked at me and not have seen what I am truly capable of,” Bouddy shared. Undaunted, she joined DDD in 2009 as a data management operator (DMO).
Bouddy starts her day before 5:00 AM and rides her bicycle for 45 minutes to reach the DDD office in Vientiane. Her shift starts at 6:00 AM when she and her DDD colleagues start their work digitizing a U.S.-based magazine. “I enjoy my work because I learn a lot from the stories in the magazine,” she confessed. In the afternoon, she is pursuing a higher degree in accounting at Pakpasack College.
No longer a daughter relying on her parents but rather, an adult providing for her family. her father Sali shared, “We used to support Bouddy–buy her food, her clothes. Now, she’s the one supporting us.” As for her mother, Khamphone, the electric fan in their living room will always remind her of her daughter’s contribution to their household. “That is from Bouddy’s salary,” she said. The family enjoys a simple life in their new concrete house, thanks in part to Bouddy’s hard work.
Now in her fourth year at DDD, Bouddy is grateful for the learning and practical experience she has gained. “I am very happy that DDD accepted me. DDD does not look on the outside but on the skills and abilities I have.” She is confident she can fulfill her goal: “I want to become an accountant. The next time I walk into a big office to apply, I will walk out with a job contract and a big smile on my face.”
From School Guard to Scholar Guide: Socheat Thin, Cambodia
In 2001, Socheat Thin,was working double shifts as a security guard for a private school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was painful, he recalls, to watch students able to go to school, with fees paid for by their parents. That opportunity seemed to Socheat like an incredible luxury. But then, a friend happened to tell him about DDD and it changed his life.
While working as a data management operator (DMO) at DDD and studying Business Administration he found it very challenging to manage his time, balancing work and school. “I sometimes got tired but I was happy because I always dreamed of going to university. DDD enabled me to support and develop myself.” He was also able to help his family and provide money toward his younger brother’s schooling.
After two years as a DMO, he found himself increasingly drawn to work in Human Resources and became an HR and Compliance Manager at TCE-International, a pioneer in bringing socially responsible investment to Cambodia. A couple of years later, he returned to DDD to lead its alumni affairs group. As alumni coordinator, he organized social gatherings and development training sessions for alumni, to tighten the network of staff and alumni and provide support for former DDD staff as they developed their careers.
In 2012, he was promoted to Manager of the DDD Scholarship Program in Cambodia. Socheat coordinates with local universities to help students secure manageable fees and ensure that DDD operators attend their classes and perform well. This program is part of DDD’s three part approach for employee development along with English Language Skills Development and Career Guidance. This additional layer of support and training that DDD provides, ensures that participants in its work/study program apply themselves fully to the incredible opportunity before them: to secure work, training, and education that will impact their personal and professional lives in deeply positive ways.
“These options are simply not available to many young Cambodians,” Socheat notes. ”Many Cambodian children stop attending school after 9th grade because they are too poor to continue. Without DDD, I would not have been able to go to university. DDD’s commitment to offering scholarships has a positive impact on society.”
And without that university degree, Socheat wouldn’t be where he is now, returning that enormous benefit by making sure others can also take full advantage of it too.
I Have the Ability: Treng Kuy Chheng, Cambodia
The International Centre for Women’s Leadership inaugurated its Global Change Leaders program in 2011 and over 400 women applied. One of the 16 women selected was Treng Kuy Chheng, an engaging and dynamic young woman who is a senior accountant for DDD in Phnom Penh. Marking her ten year anniversary with DDD, in 2012, Chheng shared her story.*
My first day at DDD I arrived in my blue skirt and white blouse and wondered what those 20 people were doing with their computers. Ten years later and today I’m sitting in Battambang, counseling our staff with disabilities that are moving to Phnom Penh. This is amazing to me to witness DDD’s growth and how it has brought job opportunities and social impact to the global south.
For many years people with disabilities have been the subject of either pity or prejudice. But I say that I have the ability, I just do it in a different way. One day I was walking back from school. I fell down on the road. But the neighbors did not help me. Rather, they said “Why do you need to go to school? Even if you study, where will you get a job?” That moment I made up my mind that I will not stop. I will make my dreams come true.
Digital Divide Data was my first job experience. I was18 years old and I knew very little English and had no real experience using a computer. But I worked hard and DDD gave me a scholarship to attend Pannasastra University where I studied accounting. My first dream, to get a job, came true.
But I had another dream, to see the world. By participating in the Global Change Leaders program, I got to spend 5 months in Canada with 15 other incredible women from 13 different countries. In seminars and workshops we learned about effective leadership and communications, advocacy, and assets based community development. I then went to Montreal to work with the DisAbled Women’s Network, (DAWN) and produced a business plan to develop a supply chain for orthotic devices in the Caribbean. The idea is this will be a social enterprise, (like DDD!) employing disabled women to sell the devices.
Now I have an even bigger dream! I want to create job opportunities for other PWDs. And I know I will soon be doing that. In 10 years DDD transformed a naive girl to someone who became one of 16 women selected as a global change leader. I’m so proud to be part of DDD and never tire of telling DDD’s story about how much impact it has had in Cambodia and Laos and especially for myself.
Nothing In the world is more harmful than isolating someone or isolating oneself! I want to stop pity and prejudice against PWD’s. I want people to understand: It’s just that we do it differently.
*Today, Chheng is a Senior Manager of Finance and Administration at SC Wado Electronics and an Advisory Group Member at WaterSHED in Cambodia.