Inspiration at a Cambodian Fish Stall

Inspiration comes in many forms.  This time it just happened to be from a stylish grandmother selling fish in the middle of a market near Pursat, Cambodia three weeks ago.  Not only did it inspire this post, but also stoked the flames of the work I am doing with ShiftRunner, a company I invested in a year to the date today.  I just realized this very moment that it is the anniversary of my first investment as TOSO Global!  Trumpets sound…

It’s been a while, since I’ve written anything for this site…last November to be exact.  It was around that time when the planning for the crowdfunding campaign for ShiftRunner’s Pandoo Nation went into full swing and took over much of my time and energy. The actual campaign was run during the year-end holiday season from December 13, 2013 through January 20, 2014.  We were raising funds to help complete and launch our kids’ game with a purpose.  The campaign itself brought in close to $33,000.  But, more importantly, we were able, separately, to raise nearly $750,000 in additional investments. Not bad.

A key factor in both the campaign and investor funding was the development of a video that explained the inspiration and goals for Pandoo Nation, which includes a link to causes in the real world.  Much of the original inspiration began with the founder whose young kids witnessed poverty while traveling in Southeast Asia and wanted to help, but didn’t know how. And, when his kids heard about a friend in the US who was helping others at his local community center, they were even more inspired.  Thus, the birth of Pandoo Nation, a way for young kids to play a fun open world game and make a difference in the real world.

As an original investor and Chief Marketing Officer for all things Pandoo, I have been energized from the beginning about the potential of this game to give kids in the more developed nations an opportunity to have fun while learning empathy and maybe a thing or two about the world beyond their borders….creating global citizens of the future.  Additionally, the idea of contributing to the less fortunate while doing so was great.

But, it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago as I visited the woman selling fish, that I truly understood the full power of what Pandoo Nation and it’s sister Pandoo Foundation can do.  What I came to understand more clearly (and directly) is that we are not only impacting future generations in the more developed world.  And, we are not simply “helping” people in the less developed world.  We can have a real and direct impact on future generations in both worlds.

I’ve visited Cambodia several times before for both a holiday break and for work in my previous life.  I’ve also done some limited volunteer work at schools in Cambodia on a couple of those trips.  But this time was different.  I was seeing the direct results that we were having already, before the game is even launched.

For background, about a year ago, Pandoo Foundation made the decision to infuse money into supporting micro-loans for women in Cambodia through one of our partner foundations called HOPE International Development Agency. In order to make Pandoo Nation successful at launch, we needed to have stories and funding opportunities that the kids could immediately connect with during their hero moments in the game.  So we worked with HOPE, who have many years of experience and success in providing micro-loans to women in impoverished communities, including remote Cambodian villages.

Through a translator, as this graceful, elegant Cambodian grandmother was filleting and selling her fish, we learned about what the loan truly meant to her and her family.  She was able to expand her business threefold.  And, because of this, she also supported her daughter (in the picture below), who sold produce in the same market, to expand her business and, in turn, provide direct benefit to her own growing family.  Her two older kids are in school thanks to her thriving business and a little help from her fish-selling mother.

It’s all about empowerment.  That is the word that kept coming to mind time and again on my visit in Cambodia. These women have been empowered to improve their own situation.  And, even more so, their kids and grandkids are reaping the benefits, because they now have the opportunity to be healthier, go to school, and create a better life for themselves and generations to come.  And, the more fuel that Pandoo Nation can provide via its game subscriptions, the better everyone becomes in so many ways.

So, thank you to the empowered Cambodian-fish-selling-grandmother for the inspiration.  I am forever grateful.

Photos provided by the talented photographer Martha Chaudhry from Singapore.  See her site here.

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