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In 2011, at the age of 25, Sally bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia, with the goal of helping people living in poverty. She soon discovered that voluntourism (short-term foreign volunteers from high income countries like Australia) caused more harm than good on the local level and that in fact, local communities were becoming more entrenched in poverty. For true sustainable development to happen, initiatives need to employ local Cambodians instead of relying on unskilled and short-term foreign volunteers. As Sally says,
“Locals are subject matter experts, they know the community and culture the best, and they are there for the long term.”
Sally then went about working with a team of local Cambodians to develop a locally registered organisation – Human and Hope Association Cambodia (HHA). They built their own community centre in rural Siem Reap, and developed the locally-run organisation with the goal of helping locals lift themselves out of poverty. From day one, the goal was for Sally to make herself redundant.
Seeing HHA become 100% locally run and sustainable, Sally returned to Australia in 2017 and now supports HHA through advocacy and fundraising as the CEO of Human and Hope Australia.
Sally’s manifesto, ‘It’s Not About Me’, was published by Elephant House Press in 2019 and details her journey to sustainable development. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) at age 33.