It does exist: Cambodian Kids Can
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of helping out some very dedicated people in a fund raising event. I’m so excited to have found this organisation, as I’ve had this picture in my head about the organisation I’d like to be involved with, and I think I’ve finally found it.
Let me give you some context.
Back in 2001, I did a big trip and lived abroad for a bit. As part of the trip, there was two experiences that really impacted me and still do to this day. The first was meeting a young girl named Lillian on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa. She was a street kid looking for food and anything she could to survive. And she broke my heart. Then on the tail end of my trip, in Thailand, I organised through some family friends to spend time at an AIDS orphanage just outside of Chang Mai. The orphanage cared for babies and children who were either HIV+ or had AIDS, or had been abandoned by parents who had AIDS. My heart broke a little more as I felt I couldn’t help them.
I questioned just about everything in my life after that visit. I reassessed my IT career, which hadn’t been giving me that sense that I was making a difference. And I questioned whether I would ever have children since there were so many children already in the world that needed caring for.
I won’t go into the kids stuff for now, but when it came to my career, I decided that what I needed in my life was to feel like I was contributing to helping people. So, after much deliberation, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about social work at the time, but it was the only thing that popped up as related to my ideas, so I just went for it.
For the first year, I really enjoyed the teaching, and did some interesting subjects. But during 2nd and 3rd year I started to really struggle with what I was being taught. And by half way through 3rd year, I deferred, and eventually transferred to a different degree: Community Development. I wasn’t really able to articulate at the time what it was that was irritating me. But I had a few run ins with teachers about the content. It felt like the basis of the teachings were coming from white upper/middle class women of the 50s and 60s who thought they knew best what other people needed. Not that it said that per say, but it was underneath it all… well that’s how it felt to me. That’s not to say that social work isn’t important, and that there are some awesome social workers out there doing incredible work. But it just didn’t sit with me. So I switched to Community Development where the main principle is ensuring the community (or the people affected) shape any response to struggles, and own their solution.
For various reasons, I didn’t end up pursuing a career in community development after I finished my studies. But it’s always been there in the background, reminding me that it is people that are my passion.
In the last year or two, I’ve been reassessing my life choices again, and trying to figure out a way to build more people stuff into my life. When I first started thinking about this, my friend asked me a question. She said “If you didn’t have to worry about money or qualifications or experience, what would be your ultimate role?”.
Wow… that’s a great question. I thought long and hard and got back to her with something very specific… and very unrealistic in my view.
That was to be in a role where I use my corporate business experience to help run an organisation, based from Melbourne, that supports development or education programs for women in South East Asia, but preferably Cambodia. And that organisation needs to be non-religious and ensure that the local people are designing and owning the development programs themselves.
She laughed and said “that’s very specific” and I replied “yes and it doesn’t exist”.
But she encouraged me to look, and to keep looking, until I found something that was similar enough to meet the list of requirements.
In the meantime, I’ve been reassessing my work life and have decided on several things:
– At the moment, I’m not interested in climbing the corporate ladder because it’s not where my passion lies and it demands giving up way too much of myself.
– I still need to be challenged in my work because I’m not the kind to just cruise.
– I want to be able to have time in my life to contribute to an organisation that helps people in some way.
– I still want to maintain my lifestyle to some extent (keep my unit by paying my mortgage, and be able to travel).
So I’ve made the decision to change tact a little. Here’s my plan:
– Look for contract roles in a lower level job that is still challenging enough to keep me interested, but can be done in normal business hours (instead of the insane hours I was doing before).
– Travel between contracts
– Volunteer for an organisation that aligns with my values.
– Finally have balance in my life…. Ha ha
Of course, I am not doing this all at once. First I’m having a break to just have some Lara time and work on my health. But I have been spending time looking for an organisation I’d like to volunteer for.
And I’ve finally found it! I found them while lying in bed at 1am scrolling through the Seek Volunteering site. When I saw a role advertised for an organisation called “Cambodian Kids Can”, I sat up straight and forgot to breath for a bit. Could it be true? Is this the organisation I was describing to my friend? I quickly googled them and read just about everything on their website. And the more I read, the more excited I got.
Cambodian Kids Can is a Melbourne-based organisation, that works with a local organisation in a small village in Cambodia to help support them in their mission to provide education and development programs for girls in Cambodia. They are not affiliated with any religion, and they ensure that the Cambodian people design and own the projects.
IT DOES EXIST!!!!!
So I reached out and then waited eagerly for a response. Then I was given my first opportunity to help them out a bit by assisting at their fund raising event.
The small number of dedicated volunteers who make up this organisation are a true inspiration to me. They give up their time and talents to make a huge difference in the lives of the girls they help support. They recognise that by helping to empower females in poorer communities, they not only help that individual, but they help the whole community lift themselves out of poverty. I had goose bumps listening to the stories of the girls whom they help support.
I think I’ve found my place. And I can’t wait to get involved with this amazing organisation and the work they do. I feel like one piece of the puzzle of my life is finally falling into place, and it’s been a long time coming.