Turning a school into a community hub where all ages can learn and grow - this is Kimsorn's vision for his social business. The community hub is to compensate the lack of quality education in rural areas of Cambodia to grant good career chances to young people.
How did your journey with BOOKBRIDGE start? My journey started in 2016 when I was working for an international organization as Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. A friend of mine told me about an entrepreneurship program he had heard of in an NGO meeting. As he perceived me as potential entrepreneur he recommended me to visit BOOKBRIDGE’s webpage to learn more about their entrepreneurship program.
I realized that this was great opportunity for me to start a social educational business so I applied for the program. At the end of 2017, I was selected as social entrepreneur. Since then I have been enjoying what I am doing now!
What change has BOOKBRIDGE brought to your life?
BOOKBRIDGE brought to my life knowledge and experience. I learned many new things related to my business idea and leadership skills that help me to overcome obstacles in my social educational business challenge.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic I have decided taking additional loan from BOOKBRIDGE’s Social Business Fund to maintain the learning center and my team.
What change have you brought to your community?
I have brought job opportunities for teachers to my community. Parents can sent their kids to my learning center to an affordable price. Children get the opportunity to learn English, computer and life skills.
What is your vision for your social enterprise?
My vision is that SmILe Academy becomes a community hub where young children, young adults and families will learn, grow and gain economic prosperity using our facilities and educational offerings.
Our goal is to offer courses focused on quality education and a safe learning environment at affordable prices. The value proposition is to provide high quality and affordable education in a safe and friendly environment.
The overall goal is to generate long-term sustainable economic, social and environmental impact in our community.
What is your current situation?
Cambodia has a high need for quality education at primary school level which, even though provided by the government free of tuition costs, does have significant associated costs (books, uniforms, transportation, etc.). Additionally, state schools are overcrowded, have poor facilities and lack qualified teachers. Even though pre-school education is recognized globally as being very important it is currently not common practice in Cambodia.
This lack of quality local education has led to the perception that the promise of education is not being fulfilled. This means that even after many years of personal and communal investment in education (opportunity costs), Cambodian students won´t get a qualified, well-paid job.
What is your offering?
At the center of my vision is our own free-standing school building. Why is this important? Because a building is a physical symbol that sends a signal to the surrounding community: we do exist! It’s a tangible sign of life and a reminder of the value of education.
This building will serve as community resource hub. It will be integral in messaging our integrity, increasing the quality of our services, and guaranteeing our sustainability. We define ‘quality’ in terms of availability and professionalism.
The hub will offer our community a learning and knowledge center, skills training, vocational opportunities and an Entrepreneurship Center. The programs in the learning and knowledge center will be K-12 education, post-secondary education. The post-secondary education will offer both academic programs as well as vocational training which will focus on practical skills.
The community we serve includes students and their families. But it also includes the community at large:
Companies which may offer our students internships as well as future employment.
Government officials who may be in a position to influence education policy to help support our needs.
Educational support organizations that could provide us the necessary resources to grow professionally.
An active advisory board, consisting of committed parents, local council representatives, local authorities and representation from local NGOs.
Additionally, we foresee the possibility of offering SmILe Academy students the possibility of studying abroad. Through connecting with the global learning community, we gain access to new concepts, new experiences and new contacts. This resource plays an important in strengthening communal relationship bonds, has the potential to increase the quality of our offering, and brings fresh, innovative ideas into our ecosystem.
Lastly, we envision an active Entrepreneurship Center (EC). The EC would be a place for budding entrepreneurs to learn new concepts and skills, to network with the business community, and to take the first step towards their own enterprise in our Business Incubation Center.
How do you know when you have succeeded?
A mother becomes an enthusiastic advocate for education after sending her baby girl to SmILe Academy when she was young.
The Cambodian government designs its education politics following SmILe Academy’s vision: SmILe Academy is so successful that its vision and activities are used as a model for new political approaches.
General public sentiment is that SmILe Academy has fulfilled its promise of quality education.
Thank you Kimsorn for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!