Dana Sreng hopes to improve life for poor and handicapped
Dana Sreng is a Cambodian-Australian with a typical past but a strong desire to make a difference in his native Cambodia. He was raised in Phnom Penh but fled with his family to Kandal province in 1975 and then to Thailand during the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. His early story reflects many of the Pol Pot regime survivors’ tales, of difficult times surviving in the refugee camps before being offered an opportunity for a fresh start in a new country – in Sreng’s case, in Adelaide, Australia.
He arrived in Adelaide in 1980 with his mother and sister as a shy, skinny 12-year-old kid with no English-language skills but with a haunting past. He and his sister were sent to language centre for three months where they studied an intensive English-language program to prepare them for high school. Because of the language barrier they faced, they had to study extra hard to keep up with the other students in high school, but with hard work and persistence they eventually succeeded. Sreng was rewarded for his hard work by being accepted into Adelaide University to study for a Bachelor of General Science.
During his later school and university years, Sreng was elected as president of the Cambodian Youth of South Australia, which had a key objective to help young, recently arrived Cambodians to integrate into Australian society. While working with many young new arrivals, and helping them to settle into the Australian way of life, he learned much about the tragedies and struggles of other Cambodian families, and he realised it was in his nature to help others, particularly young people.
After graduating from university, he worked in a range of jobs and occupations in Adelaide and Melbourne until he decided to return to Cambodia in 1993 to visit his homeland and to look for relatives who might have survived the Khmer Rouge. He was immediately touched by how much Cambodia was in need of development assistance. He decided that, with his experiences in Australia and his desire to make a difference to the people of Cambodia, he would stay in Cambodia to help push forward the development of the people and nation.
Sreng immediately became involved in an urgent need he saw – helping mine accident victims and others with various disabilities. He met a young Cambodian-American, who is one of his best friends to this day, working as a volunteer for an American war veteran organisation. He then continued to help, directly and indirectly, people with disabilities through supporting training programs which help disadvantaged people integrate into society through equal employment opportunity programs.
In 2012, Sreng decided to leave a well-paid job as a manager for Mobitel to start an outsourcing company, Dynamic Outsourcing Services (DOS), with the key objective to create more employment opportunities for young Cambodians, including people with financial and physical difficulties. DOS has now been successfully established as one of the top outsourcing firms in Cambodia, covering a range of call centre services, scanning and data processing, staff outsourcing and IT services.
The good news is that Sreng has been successful in creating many new jobs for young Cambodians, many from the countryside and disadvantaged backgrounds, who are starting out life in the workforce. He is now giving to young Cambodians what Australia offered him as a young man – opportunities for a better start in life.