Today is 10 years to the day since Human and Hope Association was founded.
I am not the founder. And I am so proud of that fact.
Human and Hope Association was founded by a group of friends who wanted to pick up where another NGO had left off – providing English education (and at the time, Buddhist morality) to children and young adults at a Buddhist pagoda.
These friends understood the power of education; many had struggled to complete their high schooling due to various issues such as money and pressures from their family, and when Human and Hope Association was founded, many of them were still in high school themselves.
For 18 months, they spread the word about their nightly English class and began teaching hundreds of students for a fee of 50 cents to a dollar a month. These fees covered the cost of their whiteboard markers and replacement ink, teaching resources, electricity bills and that’s pretty much it.
They volunteered their time because they knew the impact they could have on others in their community who longed for an education.
It was the fact that this organisation had been set up by local community members that really hit me. After spending a year working in Cambodia, managing a voluntourism program at a school, I had realised that this way of development just wasn’t sustainable.
My values had been turned upside down, and I finally came to the realisation that the solution to community development comes from the people at the core, the community.
That’s why I joined with the local team at Human and Hope Association and worked with them to develop the organisation, always with the goal of leaving. I am an Australian woman who didn’t grow up in that community; my experiences, culture and ideals are not what communities in Cambodia need. What they need is support from local role models who can provide consistency, stability and a sustained approach to development.
The proudest day of my life was when I successfully walked away from my role at Human and Hope Association. Sure, not being needed can be a kick in the guts, and as human beings we long for being needed. But it’s not what is best for local communities. Local communities are what’s best for local communities.
To celebrate Human and Hope Association’s 10th birthday, I am making a donation, and invite you to join me.
Happy birthday, HHA!