After spending a lot of time thinking about possible subjects for an interview, the only thing I had clearly visualized was that I wanted this person to have a direct connection with the project he or she believed in, a project that also had a meaning for me and that could inspire me, and all the people who came across it. However, days would go by and I couldn’t find that person – maybe, the selection was already made and the person was a lot closer than I thought.
In the past few months that I have been living in Australia, I’ve met a lot of people, and each one of them has brought something along and somehow is part of this whole experience. One such person is Vin Kebblewhite, whom I’ve had the luck of meeting and working alongside. One day, out of the blue (or better yet, out of Facebook), I realized that he was involved with a project called Life Project Cambodia. I couldn’t understand everything he had just published because it was in Swedish but I had the feeling that I was across my next story.
We always talk about existing projects or about NGOs that have been working for a while, but I had never had the opportunity to come across a project from its inception to its execution. Once you read more about the project, you’ll want to know even more, but if I have to say something about it in just a few words, I will use the same answer Vin gave to me when I asked him how LPC’s name came about… “because it’s a life project.”
I’ll leave you with his words. Everything I can say about LPC wouldn’t be enough, but there’s no doubt that behind a great project, there’s a great person that makes it all possible.
POC :: When and how did Life Project Cambodia start?
VK :: In 2012, I spent several months volunteering in Cambodia and that experience changed my life. I witnessed poverty on a scale that I had never seen before and it wasn’t something that I could just walk away from. I came home to Australia, energized and inspired to create a plan of action to help the people of Cambodia, and after 12 months of planning, Life Project Cambodia was born.
POC :: Can you describe LPC as well as its goals and objectives?
VK :: Life Project Cambodia is an environmentally sustainable NGO, providing free education, community services and sustainable development initiatives to disadvantaged communities in Cambodia. We aim to construct a community campus within selected communities to provide long-term support services to families and individuals, including child care, education, sanitation and sustainability, rural development, community services, and health care.
POC :: Can you describe in just one sentence the philosophy behind LPC?
VK :: Our mission is to empower Cambodian communities to create their own solutions to poverty by providing free education, skills, resources, and sustainable development initiatives.
POC :: According to Transparency International, in 2012, Cambodia ranked 157 out of 176 countries for global corruption. How do you think this will affect the project’s development?
VK :: Yes, sadly corruption is a big problem in Cambodia. We will seek advice from our support network in Cambodia and Australia, every step of the way, to ensure that all precautions are taken to protect Life Project Cambodia against corruption. I believe it is important that we show a zero-tolerance policy to corruption at all times.
POC :: Public services in Cambodia, such as healthcare, education, agricultural and rural development, sanitation and community services are completely inadequate and yet, vital to breaking the cycle of poverty. LPC offers a solution to all these problems. Which challenges do you believe LPC will face in the transformation process to adapt the community’s current situation to a new model of life?
VK :: We’ll face many challenges on our journey, however we’re not proposing a new model of life; instead we aim to empower Cambodian communities to create their own solutions to poverty. We are confident that we’ll be able to successfully introduce new ideas, support, and assistance.
POC :: Starting an NGO, making it work and maintaining its sustainability is a task that requires more than just donations. How do you plan to ensure long-term sustainability for LPC?
VK :: Sustainability is at the heart of Life Project Cambodia and we will utilize Earthship Biotecture when constructing each community campus. Earthship Biotecture will remove all utility costs, provide clean drinking water and sanitation, enable year round organic food production and will also promote sustainable development within the community.
In addition to the traditional funding channels, such as donations, grants, and sponsorship, Life Project Cambodia will introduce a new social enterprise with each phase of development. The social enterprises will increase our income stream by donating profits back to Life Project Cambodia and they will also provide employment and vocational training opportunities within the community.
POC :: Crowdfunding has become an alternative to raise funds for social initiatives. Research firm Massolution estimates that the crowdfunding industry (equity + donation + lending +reward crowdfunding) grew from $1.5 billion in 2011 to $2.8 billion in 2012. Why have you chosen this alternative to start the project?
VK :: We have chosen crowdfunding as it will not only provide our initial start-up funding but it will also connect us with sponsors and volunteers from all over the world. Crowdfunding is a really positive way to start a project like this as it connects so many people to a single cause. People who contribute to a crowdfunding campaign know that they are turning a plan into a reality and it’s a great feeling to be part of that process. We hope to create lasting relationships with everyone involved in our crowdfunding campaign.
POC :: Personally, which are the biggest challenges that lay ahead of you in this endeavor?
VK :: I find all of the challenges ahead incredibly exciting! I think the biggest challenge is of course adapting to my new life in Cambodia, as it’s very different from my current life in Australia.
POC :: Do you have any fears?
VK :: I think everyone has fears, but I remain focused on the positives, as fear is counterproductive. Fear, worry and negative thoughts won’t help us achieve our goals.
POC :: On a personal level, what does LPC mean to you?
VK :: Life Project Cambodia brings together so many of my dreams and ideas and I am so grateful that I have the support to make this happen. This project means the world to me; it will empower people to break free from poverty and there are no words that can explain how happy that makes me feel.
If you want to collaborate with LPC, you can visit the campaign page on Indiegogo.