Who is Svay Sanuch?

Svay Sanuch with Kids about to make Art

Cambodia really is a Kingdom and Svay Sanuch really is a hero and an inspiration.

He is a humble guy with a big heart and goals that are even bigger — bring Virtual Reality to children in the most remote areas of Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder as it is often called.

One of the most remarkable things about Svay Sanuch is that he actually is bringing Wonder to children all over the country. He doesn’t wait for funding or permission, even though he doesn’t have either one. Somehow he does it anyway.

He is an artist and his life is his greatest work. He can make technology perform when it is miserably hot and humid and still create beauty with it — and help other people get into creating with him.

His idea isn’t performance — it’s participation.

Here’s what he is doing:

  • public events where kids learn how to produce 3D images
  • print the pics, right there on the spot
  • minting them instantly as NFTs on a local Cambodia-based blockchain
  • auctioning the NFTs as they roll out
  • Contributing the proceeds to the Cambodian Children’s Fund

Svay Sanuch is one artist, part of an integrated program, many pieces, loosely joined. The common thread is Cambodia, its art and culture.

Kampuchea Krama

A Krama is a traditional Cambodian multi-purpose garment —it can be a scarf or a bandana. It can be used as a hammock for a baby, or as a weapon. Anyone can wear a krama, male or female, young or old.

Krama

Cambodia’s first digital asset platform officially opened on May 21, 2022 when Chhim Sothy’s work, ‘Relax’ was purchased using the Krama NFT Marketplace in Phnom Penh.

Krama is now in place to support many Cambodian artists, including Svay Sanuch. His next event will feature the same successful elements — kids, VR and unique digital products registered on a local blockchain

Cambodian Children’s Fund, CCF

The Kingdom is full of NGOs but there is only one CCF, the NGO of Action.

It started in a neighborhood next to a huge dump in Phnom Penh. It’s awful. I’ve been there. The dump is still the dump. Some things don’t change. But some things do.

There is now a thriving modern Education Center next to the dump that wasn’t there 16 years ago when Scott Neeson began a long-term commitment to real change in the neighborhood.

The Center doesn’t just serve kids. It serves whole families, because that’s what it takes to actually lift children out of extreme poverty. The whole family needs medical help, more nutritious food, respite support, 21st century job skills and more — to provide a foundation for their children to learn.

I’ve seen that too, the whole system of support Cambodian Children’s Fund operates all day every day.

When Svay Sanuch auctions the art that kids made right there, people know what they are doing is contributing to CCF. The NFT is a unique Thank You, from a child who was creating and having fun.

Sanuch and I

We met in 2018 when he attended a public presentation I gave there on VR. He waited until the end, until every other person who wanted to come up to speak with me was finished. Then he introduced himself.

He said what he’s still saying, and doing — that he wants to take VR to kids in the villages. We hit it off right there.

We worked on videos and VR events at my place in YK Art House in the Tonle Bassac neighborhood of Phnom Penh.

Svay Sanuch and Dika Thon, author’s pic

I was going to travel with Sanuch in Techno Sen Russey Trep Park, northeast of Siem Reap and Angkor, to interview archeologists and make 360 degree videos. I was scheduled to depart on March 3, 2020, but I didn’t.

As things turned out, Cambodia had one of the world’s best Covid records and the US had one of the world’s worst, but who knew?

When I couldn’t travel, we put on a series of shows in VR during 2020. Musicians from the Khmer Magic Music Bus performed in a make shift studio there and Sanuch got it onto the Internet and into VR for a worldwide audience.

Lockdowns slowed him down some but not much. There have been many events for kids. School visits. Teaching, training, workshops.

When tourists couldn’t visit Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s prime attraction — he did. Now he has one of the world’s best collections of 360 degree images and videos from Angkor-without-Tourists.

Next: NFTs on Krama.

He’s an artist from a family of artists.

He is in his 70s, which makes him semi-old. Most people in their seventies are not exploring, not reaching out in challenging places with inspiring technology.

People who even made it to 70 in Cambodia today have lived through exceptionally hard times that changed all of them forever. They have seen the worst humans have to offer

Who is Svay Sanuch?

I still don’t know. He is still not done with his work. There is still Wonder to bring to children in the Kingdom. He needs help.

Image by David Denton

I write about VR and other topics I have no standing to write about on Medium and Substack.

I have a black belt in learning and I’ve been meditating for so long you’d think I’d be enlightened but I’m not.

Svay Sanuch can be contacted at EduThruVR

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Tom Nickel

Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos