We connected with Hao Taing through Instagram and invited him onto our most recent podcast episode, "Episode 47: Home Away from Home: Stories of International Students in the U.S" Reflecting on his time in the States, Hao loves and prefers the sense of community that he gets from living in Cambodia.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, Hao created Local4Local to support vulnerable communities around Phnom Penh, and to also support the work of cycle drivers, local food vendors, and volunteers to prepare and deliver meals and COVID-relief packages. Read more about Hao's activism and how you can help support Local4Local through sharing, donating, and/or volunteering.
- Mellissa & Jasmine
What was your inspiration for starting Local4Local?
Inspired by a food drive when I was in college, I always had the idea of having a food drive back home but through a local Cambodian style. Also, being a street photographer myself has inspired me to give back to my community. Since then, I have had the idea, and only until March 30, when the name "Local4Local" popped up during my shower. On April 9, a day before my 21st birthday, Local4Local was created in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a no better time to start Local4Local, especially when food and COVID-relief packages were the primary support. Then, a week after, a city-wide lockdown was implemented in Phnom Penh city.
During the lockdown, when shops were closed, people stayed at home, the question arose, "Now that I received some donations, how can I help a chain of people when everyone is facing difficulties and so that everyone wins?" As I know the cyclo drivers personally from my past initiative, "Christmas For Cyclo, " and cyclo tours, along with the support from the Cyclo Conservation and Careers Association, the "Cyclo Food Giveaway" was born during the lockdown.
Cyclo has always been close to heart, and it brings back the memory of my late grandmother, who was a huge lover of cyclos; typically riding on the cyclo to the Kandal markets and around the riverside for her morning exercise with her friends. Indeed, as I grew up surrounded by cyclos and remembered riding on the cyclo with my siblings and grandma to school and for fun, it also motivated me to give back to the vulnerable cyclo community that was and still is, a massive nostalgia for my childhood.
What has been the most rewarding part of this project?
The most rewarding part of Local4Local is that even during the strict city-wide lockdown, cyclo drivers, street dwellers (garbage collectors, security guards, and informal workers), and families in the red zones received daily warm meals and COVID-relief packages. Street vendors are also happy that they can earn money during tough times. I am only young, and I may not help every person, but making other people happy puts a massive smile on my face. I am grateful that I have food on the table, and everybody on the street deserves warm meals every day.
The beauty of kindness from strangers is also a significant rewarding part of Local4Local, and I am truly could not be more thankful for all of the surprising generosity, locally and internationally. Seeing smiles and kindness during this difficult time have given them hopes in time of crises. In a positive light, cyclo drivers are the city's storytellers, and despite their age, they are like the hardworking, cultural "ambassadors" of Cambodia. Now is a challenging time for all, but with a bit of hope, and a little more kindness, we will get through this together.