sally hetherington

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Cambodia, Thoughts, Voluntourism

What I wish I knew when I was 25

In September 2011, I packed up my bags and bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia. I was determined to ‘make a difference’. My intentions for moving there were good, but as I soon realised, good intentions aren’t good enough. I can’t change the past, but what I can do is share the lessons I learnt, and what I wish I had known when I was 25, to help others from making the same mistakes. You need to respect the culture I often assumed I was the exception to the rule. That  ...

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Keeping Connected with Cambodia During Lockdown

We are now into our fifth week of lockdown in Sydney, with a minimum of four weeks to go. The introvert in me is loving it, though the empath in me is feeling for everyone suffering. Though as someone whose office, bedroom and lounge room consist of the same 20 square metre space, at times, life can be suffocating. I miss nature walks, I miss going to the cinema and eating my weight in popcorn, and I miss the freedom of popping down to the shops without needing to check if another  ...

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Cambodia, Child Protection

A Confession + Apology

I have been meaning to confess to my mistake for awhile, however it was reading this article about the ‘Afghan Girl’ that prompted me to prioritise my apology. Let me take you back to late 2011. I had been living in Cambodia for a couple of months. My Cambodian co-workers told me about a public school on the outskirts of Siem Reap where they voluntarily taught English to the students a few afternoons a week.  My interest was sparked; I needed to take a photo to promote Rotaract (a worldwide  ...

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Cambodia, Voluntourism

The Silver Lining of COVID-19

We have to look at the silver linings, don’t we? I was naive when COVID-19 hit. I assumed it would be a short-term problem; that it would be over in a few months and we could all continue as normal. But of course, that isn’t the case. I have no answers to when it will end, and all I can do is act responsibly  and help people who are doing it tough. The major way I am helping is in my role as CEO of Human and Hope. For those of you who have followed me for awhile, you would know  ...

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Cambodia, Human and Hope Association

A Q & A with Thai San of Human and Hope Association

Many community members in Human and Hope Association’s target communes in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia have lost their jobs. They either worked in the tourism industry, or their jobs were indirectly related to the tourism industry, which has become non-existent due to COVID-19. The flow on effect from the loss of these jobs is impacting other industries, including small enterprises. The economic impact on Siem Reap has been horrendous. The team are now seeing families who don’t have enough  ...

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Cambodia, Charity

How we portray people in fundraising matters

This week I have spent some time reflecting on how people who receive support from charities are portrayed in their communications. Back in 2014, one of Human and Hope Association’s Microfinance borrowers was angry because we had shared a photo on Facebook with her photo. The photo was accompanied with a caption that stated she had borrowed funds from us to expand her business. One of her neighbours saw the photo on Facebook, and mocked her for it. When the Microfinance borrower complained  ...

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Cambodia, Thoughts

Reflections during Endometriosis Awareness Month

Me: “I have my period.” Male colleague: “AGAIN?” Me: “Yes, it comes once a month.” Male colleague: “It feels like you have it every day.” Can I get a holler from my sisters who have endometriosis? It is not easy dealing with all the symptoms. But of course, you know that. It is even harder dealing with it in a country that likes to pretend that periods don’t exist. For five years, I lived in Cambodia, where periods are a taboo topic. Many women don’t know about the purpose of periods, or  ...

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Cambodia, Responsible Tourism

Join me as we travel to Cambodia in October 2020

For those of you who follow my blog, you would know that I believe that participating in voluntourism is not the best way to help low-income communities. We need to be changing the way that we think of these communities; they deserve better. Having lived in Cambodia for over five years, and have spent the last nine years dedicated to helping the country and their people, I know that Cambodians are resourceful, resilient and inspirational. And the best way to help Cambodians who are looking  ...

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Cambodia, It's Not About Me

Lessons learnt from living in Cambodia

I was 23. It was my first time in Cambodia. I thought, “why not visit an orphanage?” I was disappointed. The children were out attending public school. All I saw was an empty playground and a mandatory donation form. I went back to Australia, determined to get back to Cambodia and have a second shot. The next year, I returned. I volunteered at a residential centre for former street children. I amassed several Facebook albums of photos, all featuring me with cute kids I didn’t know. I taught  ...

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