‘We’ve Got to Keep Ourselves Crazy’

How a Cambodian was inspired into positive action after attending an SIF-Asean Students Fellowship in 2002.

That “craziness” in Cambodian Lux Mean was stoked when he attended the SIF-Asean Student Fellowship programme in Singapore in 2002, an experience he says inspired him “to do something great”.

Lux Mean is crazy.

He’s crazy about helping rural children, crazy about turning rubbish into wealth and crazy about his family.

That “craziness” in the Cambodian businessman was stoked when he attended the SIF-Asean Student Fellowship programme in Singapore in 2002, an experience he says inspired him “to do something great”.

During the 20-week fellowship, which exposed regional student leaders to the Singapore way of life through them learning and working alongside Singapore student leaders, Mean participated in various activities, including picking up rubbish at a beach and going door-to-door with the other fellows to collect unwanted items such as paper and toys to sell for charity.

Inspired to act

The experience, he says, changed his life, showing him that “everyone can contribute to society”.

When he returned to Cambodia, he got together with other alumni of the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) to organise volunteer activities modelled on what he had experienced in Singapore.

As the projects became more frequent, Mean sought to establish an identity and ensure a sustainable presence in Cambodia. So, together with some SIF alumni friends, he co-founded Volunteers Without Borders in his home country in 2003 to promote volunteerism among young people.

The NGO, which Mean chairs, organises outreach programmes which include funding school supplies to equip rural primary schools.

On the fellowship, the 31-year-old says: “It was a special moment in my life to come here so I wanted to make the most out of it.”

Mean was speaking on the sidelines of SIF Connects! Singapore, an event which brought together SIF alumni from 11 countries.

Partly from observing how unwanted but recyclable things were collected in Singapore during his fellowship, he also started a scrap business in Cambodia in 2008, and decided to quit his job at an international organisation to focus full-time on the business in 2011.

Family ties

Amid these major developments in his life, Mean never forgot about his family.

As de facto head of the family following his father’s passing, Mean sent his five younger siblings to leading schools, and he plans to let them inherit his scrap business one day.

Building a good and successful family is more important than individual success, he says.

So besides education and business opportunities, Mean wants his siblings to have the exposure he received during his fellowship, and he plans to send them to Singapore to learn about living and working in the city state.

“Being good enough is not enough, we have to live life to the limit and see how far we can go,” he says. “We’ve got to keep ourselves ‘crazy’ – just explore new things and see how they grow, and how the dots connect.”

So far, it appears that “craziness” has been good for his business, his family, and the needy children Volunteers Without Borders helps.

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