“KK IS the heart, brain and soul of Tiny Toones. He has respect and is the role model for the older kids. It is not just dancing, KK has changed their lifestyle.”
The words of TT communications manager Ula Piller, and ones echoed by many others within and outside the corridors of the young NGO when talking about Tuy Sobil, the man nicknamed KK, the original founder, the tattooed bad boy turned not just good but becoming a man of compassion, vision and creativity with a passionate mission to change the lives and the future of thousands of Cambodian at-risk youth.
He changed his life around and works tirelessly to do it for others, not to follow down a path he once trod.
Born in a Thai refugee camp when his family fled the killings fields of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s he went with them to America ... a family looking for a new life.
But the dream was not reality. They struggled through poverty and lived in one of the worst gang- and drug-infested neighbourhoods of California’s Long Beach.
He started breakdancing at the age of eight and won a major battle against his former rivals in a b-boy crew, their name Tiny Toones. They united to become Ground Force Crew and dominated the dance scene in their area. But later in his teenage years it all went sour and he fell into drugs, gangs and crime.
After eight years in and out of jail then waiting his immigration fate he was deported to Cambodia late in 2004 but although a Khmer-American national it was a country he did not know.
That was Chapter one of Tuy Sobil’s life. The next came as KK worked as a health and drug harm reduction worker, working in youth outreach.
“With outreach I worked with people, talked with kids, communicated. It was something I wanted to do and still want to do. We were volunteers, we became part of their families but while there are a lot of NGOs their people do not go to the slums where the kids have sex workers and drug addicts as parents and siblings,” said KK.
Hearing he was a breakdancer kids approached him to be their dance teacher. At first he said no but later it was a way he could be a positive role model for them and he changed his tune.
Tiny Toones was formed; the health and education training he received in prison became the foundation of the curriculum.
The rest, as they say, is history.