Dr Mengly Jandy Quach is a Cambodian-American educationist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. Today, he is best known as the founder, chairman and CEO of the Mengly J. Quach Holdings. Dr Mengly recently spoke to Khmer Times’ Chea Vannak and outlined his vision of corporate social responsibility for Cambodian businesses.
KT: You are a philanthropist and giving back to the community seems to be your way of life. What motivates you to do what you are doing?
Dr Mengly: I guess it runs in the family and it’s in our genes. My parents and grandparents liked showing kindness to others and helping the downtrodden. I also cannot forget my past and that makes me want to give back to society. I was resettled in the United States from a refugee camp after the war, living on the charity and goodness of the United Nations. Others were kind to me and now it’s my turn to reciprocate.
I started carrying out charitable works when I was 10. As a young child, I was helping provide food to the poor in the US. When I was a medical student in the US, I worked in a charity that provided free medical services to the poor and homeless. I guess that’s how I started.
Later, that carried on when I started my businesses. The profits I generated have been used to build schools, toilets and wells for the poor. I also started up food banks and mobile clinics that provided free medical services. I also helped fund relief efforts to provide humanitarian aid to survivors of natural disasters.
KT: Does showing goodness to others also help your businesses?
Dr Mengly: At the beginning of my charity activities here in Cambodia, I did not realize that what I did for the downtrodden in society would actually help my businesses. But later, after a few years I started to realise the concept of corporate social responsibility – where businesses needed to have a moral and social conscience in the pursuit of profits.
I learnt that what I did for society also made me a model for my businesses. My philanthropic behaviour was also a motivation for my staff to show compassion and kindness to others. Inculcating a culture of giving is important in a business. We Buddhists believe in karma. We reap what we sow. By doing good to others, we will receive good in return and the goodness flows on into our businesses. It’s like a cycle. I use the profits from my businesses to better the life of those who are less fortunate.
KT: What business are you currently involved in?
Dr Mengly: I have my own Mengly J. Quach University. The university is the latest addition to Mengly J. Quach Education under Mengly J. Quach Holdings. I founded Mengly J. Quach Holdings in 2005 and I am the chairman and CEO of three leading three entities – Mengly J. Quach Education, Mengly J. Quach Investments and Mengly J. Quach Health Services – all under the holdings.
I also have a transportation company which is used to transport students to and from the university. I am also in the retail sector, and I own seven mini marts and three book stores. In the food and beverage sector, I own 12 coffee shops and 13 restaurants.
I also have a film production company which I plan to launch this July. I had a media company previously – Thmey Themy – but I just sold it. I might later start up an online media company instead. In the finance sector, I own the Pracheacheat Microfinance Institute. Pracheacheat was established in 2005 for the purpose of providing zero interest loans to students, staff, families and people from all walks of life. They are mostly from poor and vulnerable families. As for medical services, I run a free service in my schools and university. I spend roughly $200,000 per year on this service. It provides free medical service to students, students’ families, staff, their families, and the poor.
KT: How do you choose the charities and NGOs that you want to donate to? Must they have a specific criteria, for example working in the health sector etc?
Dr Mengly: There are a lot of charities and associations that we have worked with. Some, just receive donations from my holding without any personal involvement from me. However, sometimes I do get involved if it’s a moving issue that needs my personal intervention to alleviate the sufferings of others. We don’t focus on specific areas. We prefer all.
We don’t focus on, for example, just only on healthcare. We fund all interventions from providing education to poor children to disaster relief in emergencies.
KT: Do you think corporations in Cambodia should get involved in philanthropy?
Dr Mengly: Like in other countries, businesses here have to help contribute back to society. They cannot just reap profits and turn their back on communities. In the philosophy of corporate social responsibility, it means that if we cut down a tree, we have to plant 100 new trees. For businesses, it is an obligation and responsibility for businessmen and investors to contribute to society.
KT: You are also an educationalist with a strong commitment to providing education for all. How do you think private education can help lift education standards in the country? Do you think the poor are also entitled to private education?
Dr Mengly: The two crucial sectors in this country are education and health. If the education sector is weak, we will not be able to develop human resources for Cambodia’s development. Also, if the health sector is not fully developed diseases will spread and people will fall sick.
This in turn will deplete family finances, when the sick seek medical treatment, further exacerbating poverty. Because of this, these two sectors must be given utmost importance by the country’s leaders.
In Cambodia, there is no denying that there are good private schools and at the same time, also, good public schools. The few bad private schools give private education a bad name. My university offers scholarships to the poor and we don’t discriminate.
But I need to point out that education reforms are urgently needed in Cambodia to ensure quality education for all. If that is delayed, we are going to lose out to our Asean neighbours.
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