When asked to describe Bopha Malone, branch relationship manager and vice president at Enterprise Bank, Alison Burns thinks first of her energy.
“I remember when I first met Bopha, she was so full of energy. She was very passionate and had an infectious personality,” said Burns, community relations and customer experience officer and vice president at Enterprise Bank. “She really is a true reflection of the Enterprise Bank’s core values and is so respected in the community.”
This image of a community leader is a far cry from 9-year-old Malone who, in 1989, immigrated with her parents to the United States from a war-torn Cambodia and didn’t know the language or culture of her new country.
Cultural differences combined with residual fear from their experiences during the war caused Malone’s parents to put limits on their daughter’s ambitions. “They taught me [that as a woman, my] place is supposed to be doing chores, you don’t have to strive to be bigger than that.’ … I struggled with that because I didn’t think I was very good at any of that stuff – being pretty and doing the household chores,” Malone said.
Then Malone found Girls Inc., a nonprofit that aims to instill confidence in girls and inspire them to grow up to be successful women.
“Coming from a war-torn country, my parents had experienced all these atrocities. They thought, ‘If you speak up, horrible things will happen.’ So I was taught not to have a voice,” Malone said. “[At Girls Inc.] I felt like, I was taught to have a voice. It was okay to aspire to more.”
Malone’s involvement with Girls Inc. gave her role models who showed her that she could be a different kind of woman. They helped her get in to college, taking her on college tours and helping her figure out the financial aid system, and provided her with the support she, and many other immigrant children, need to be successful. “When I graduated from college, my parents were very, very proud of me,” Malone said. “Every success I had, they were always there – my biggest fans.”
Today, Malone is the one helping others succeed. She is president of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Lowell’s board of directors, where she provides economic, social and educational support to the city’s Cambodian residents. Last summer, when a fire tore apart a city apartment building, killing seven and displacing more than 50 people – the majority of whom were Cambodian – Malone spearheaded an effort to raise more than $260,000 for the survivors.
Malone is also a trustee and treasurer of the Women Working Wonders committee, an incorporator at Lowell General Hospital, a member of several of Lowell’s city committees and, of course, a member of the board of directors of Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell.
“Bopha gives freely of her time and somehow is able to be everywhere, whether it’s at work, volunteering with nonprofits or at home with her two kids,” Burns said. “She’s amazing.”
Malone is quick to share her secret to success.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of mentors,” Malone said. “It’s important for people that have been given opportunity to look for ways to give back to their communities and make a difference.”