Can you think of a connection between being a veterinarian and reducing poverty? While many people would choose to do something else rather than healing animals, Phoung Sophanit, 22, left home to pursue his dream to be a veterinarian at the age of 18.
Born in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district and raised in a single parent family, Phoung Sophanit has been a vet since he was in grade 12 due to the influence of his uncle and to help his personal expenses. This initiative of working early in life made him even more interested in animals and eventually led him to study the subject at the Royal University of Agriculture.
For Sophanit, working as a veterinarian not only helps support his family, but also improves society as a whole. He said: “At a first glance being a vet seems to have nothing to do with the development of society, but if closely looked at, there are chances to help people.” He explained that once people get educated about the proper methods of raising and caring for animals, their living standards improve due to the good yields they get.
Sophanit has started to conduct workshops in his local communes and many more will soon follow. He said he was happy to teach his villagers and help increase their incomes. “After conducting many workshops, villagers always stop by to ask me questions about veterinary issues,” he said.
To encourage older people to trust him and follow his methods, Sophanit suffered some failures and faced many challenges. “I once had animals die after my vaccination. Sometimes I was so afraid that I did not even dare to walk past those villagers’ houses where their animals died,” he said. But he added that his experience taught him a good lesson and made him improve. He said without those failures, he would not be where he is today.
After gaining experience with some NGOs as a volunteer and a workshop organiser, he is now planning to go on a study tour with other student vets to reach some remote villages and educate people about veterinary skills. He hoped this will help reduce poverty. “People need to know those skills for their own good.”
With much determination and high self-esteem, this young man looks optimistically to the future. He hopes to run his own business selling animal-related products and help educate people on how to use them effectively with animals.
“When people learn some skills, they will try to raise more animals which can improve their earnings and improve their living standards,” he said, adding that helping people was also like helping himself because more people would come to buy his products when they know how to use those products correctly.