News

Arkoun: Soaps for Good

6 February 2018 By Tracey Dore (WCLP'17)

Williamson Community Leadership Program 2017 graduate Tracey Dore knew exactly what her leadership pledge needed to be.

During Tracey’s Williamson year, she went on a volunteering holiday to Cambodia with her 13-year-old daughter, Georgie. Tracey and Georgie were deeply impacted by the scale of poverty and limited access to clean water and basic hygiene that they saw. Whilst volunteering, Tracey and Georgie helped build a wash house in a Cambodian school just out of Siem Reap. Little did they know that this experience would plant the seed for their own social enterprise back home.

On return Tracey assisted her daughter in establishing a social enterprise to fund future wash houses in Cambodia.  The business is called Arkoun, which means thank you in Khmer, the language of the Cambodian people. Profits from the sale of Georgie’s soaps will help fund the building of wash houses in Cambodian schools. Each wash house helps on average 400 school children access basic hygiene education and hand washing facilities.

Here are some concerning facts...

  • Over 9 million people in Cambodia don't have access to sanitation
  • 380 children under five die each year due to poor sanitation
  • Less than one-in-three Cambodian's have access to hand washing and toilet facilities
  • Only 16% of Cambodians have a fixed hand washing place in their homes
  • Hand washing with soap can prevent diarrheal deaths by 40%
  • Despite a growing tourism industry, Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in SE Asia with more than half the population lacking sanitation

With Tracey’s help and community leadership experience, her daughter has now set up an online store and social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram.

Georgie has since been nominated for the Berry Street Create Change Award, one of the ten categories in the Victorian Young Achiever Awards.

Reflecting on her Williamson experience, Tracey said “Sometimes you can get lost in the enormity of the social issues that you are confronted with on Williamson. I spent the first couple of programs wondering how I could contribute as I felt really underprepared. I realised quickly that if I was brave and used my lack of experience in challenging the status quo of global issues, maybe that was my greatest strength. Georgie and I nearly blew up our microwave trying to make soap but through this we’ve learnt so much about embracing mistakes, sticking to the cause and just giving it a crack.

“My Williamson colleagues have been incredible. When Georgie’s online store went live in November 2017, most of our first orders were from my Willy friends including Richard Dent OAM, CEO, Leadership Victoria. Thanks to them, Georgie has received media interviews and incredible business advice and support. I can’t thank my Williamson friends and Leadership Victoria enough for their support and professional generosity. It really does take a village!”

If you would like to support Tracey and Georgie’s cause, or have a business connection that may help spread the word, please contact them at hysend@bigpond.com or via Facebook