It has been exactly one year since I left Human and Hope Association to be entirely Khmer operated.
I will never forget my last day. I was terrified to go to work that day; I knew that the slightest thing would set the waterworks off. My team were prepped not to say anything nice to me, or to thank me, or to make a big deal.
The first person to break that was our Sustainability Assistant, Sophy, who sent her daughter (our student) into the office to give me a coconut. She then gave me another two coconuts later on. Next was Vanna, our seamstress, who presented me with a lovely, soft scarf at our team lunch. After that, it was the guys, who knew I had been eyeing our newest product, a large clutch. They let me choose what colour I wanted, then pitched in to buy it for me.
By the end of the day, I was itching to get home and avoid anyone saying something that would result in me bawling my eyes out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave on time as the skies decided to open up and a huge amount of rain came pouring down, making it too dangerous to drive home. At 5:30, when the rain finally died down, I got on my motorbike, left the compound and immediately started crying. Why was I crying? Sadness, pride, relief….a mixture of so many feelings, I suppose.
I still can’t believe that I started my time in Cambodia promoting voluntourism, and ended it by leaving a trustworthy, effective NGO to be entirely run by Cambodians. It is still my greatest achievement to date, one year on. People often ask me if I am happy with how HHA is going now. I tell them the truth; I couldn’t be prouder. The team are doing such an incredible job and continue to develop themselves, their projects and their community. I am happy to spend hours upon hours fundraising for Human and Hope Association because I truly believe in the cause. We have shown the world that Cambodians DO have the skills, ability and knowledge to run their own NGO’s without resorting to voluntourism, and we hope that other organisations follow suit.