When I first came to Phnom Penh earlier this year, I interviewed a really fantastic social enterprise called ARC Hub PNH for an article I was writing about prosthetic limb production in Cambodia and Laos.
During the Secret War that ran concurrently to the Vietnam War, the Americans (illegally) dropped more bombs here than had ever been dropped anywhere before, and the Khmer Rouge continued to carpet Cambodia in landmines until the ’90s. The upshot of this is that, every year, people lose limbs to UXOs all over Laos and Cambodia – and since these are some of the poorest people on the planet, their chances of getting hold of an artificial limb are pretty remote.
I got talking to ARC Hub PNH because they were experimenting with 3D printing prosthetic hands that use a pulley system to grip objects, yet only cost about $10 to make. They were in talks with the Red Cross to help bring these to people in the countryside – and I was really excited by the concept.
I expected this to be the end of the conversation, but on the day that the article was published, I was on a hurriedly organised trip to Thailand to meet my partner (an industrial designer) and was enthusiastically telling him about their work. He called them up pretty much straightaway and asked them if they were hiring.
Which, it turns out, they were. So the BF dropped everything, missed his flight back to London, and FedEx-ed his keys to my Mum so he could sublet his flat. We both moved back here, he got stuck in at ARC Hub, and I also started helping them out now and again with videos like this one, to help promote their work:
Anyway, last month the team entered the ASEAN Impact Challenge, a major social enterprise competition in the region – and this week, they found out that they’ve been selected as one of two finalists in the whole country to go to Kuala Lumpur. In lieu of payment for the videos, I’ll be heading there with them, and will be cheering them from the sidelines while I cover the event.
As a journalist writing about technology and development, you get to spend a lot of time talking to people doing interesting or noble work; projects that aim to make the world that little bit better. Less often, you get to join in. I have to say, it’s rather a nice place to be.