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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The extraordinary helping the ordinary

Sovan Rithy at one of his charitable events, seen here with a group of students. Photo supplied
Sovan Rithy at one of his charitable events, seen here with a group of students. Photo supplied

The extraordinary helping the ordinary

Social responsibility, social justice, social media – with everything now being made so accessible to anyone equipped with the Internet, never has the word ‘social’ been more personal and relatable to people. Those with a sense of civic duty often go above and beyond and take it upon themselves to whip society into better standards, nevermind the fact that they do not work in huge corporations with a corporate social responsibility arm.

As a child, Sovan Rithy sold newspapers on the streets. Now, he is the deputy director of TVFB News, a Facebook public page dedicated to uploading videos of Cambodians in plight and appealing to its 600,000 followers for donations or for social justice.

Inspired by his father who was formerly a writer and publisher of a local newspaper, Rithy simply said, “The search for justice for victims and the generous human encounters I have witnessed are the reasons I do my job with passion.”

It was his father who pulled him aside at the age of 14 to show him the everyday life of a typical Cambodian in the capital, and exposed him to social problems – drugs, petty theft, alcoholism, beggar syndicates, and many, many more.

That left an unceasing impression on Rithy, who went on to become a writer, actor, and producer of news at a local television station. In 2013, he took that impression a notch further and started TVFB News.

“Due to the desire for justice and social responsibility, I started making videos of those I found out were in need, and started uploading them on TVFB News in 2013. My team now consists of nearly 15 volunteer members.”

Despite the risks associated with the reporting, the creation of TVFB through social media is to appeal for help for vulnerable people, either through donations or through other means that alleviate the burden of the subjects featured in the videos. “But definitely not for business,” he stated.

“The TVFB News team will soldier on with our motto of no fear in reporting, and we continually try to provide our audience with the most truthful information as possible.”

While the job doesn’t pay much, Rithy is content enough to serve society via his own means.

“We have so far been successful in giving back to society, promoting social values, and doing charity to help social victims, and we will help to find justice for victims by broadcasting live videos from our page,” he said.

For Khoeun Sola and his team of vigilante traffic wardens, contributing to society comes in the form of facilitating traffic in notoriously congested areas, either before or after their respective day jobs.

Sola founded the Humanitarian Press Unit at the end of 2014. The group now comprises more than 30 volunteers from various job backgrounds who educate and direct motorists to respect basic road regulations.

“The traffic video reports which we put up live on Facebook now can partly help to reduce traffic congestion, let people know which areas are too jammed to drive to, and also scare people not to go against traffic rules,” he said.

Despite the laborious work, Sola has no plans to stop what he’s doing anytime soon because the support and positive responses he gets from the Cambodian people are what urges him to continue in his social responsibility.

In addition to being the capital’s road superheroes, the team also does as much charity as they can afford to help the elderly and the poor in rural areas. Most recently, Sola and his team raised donations for a family in the provinces whose twin children desperately needed surgery to survive.

“Through my team’s activities, I hope people see the need to start helping each other for the better of our society,” Sola said.

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