You know you’ve solved a problem when you’re no longer needed. This is as truistic a statement as it is common sense. And yet, how many international charities follow this principle?
It’s been coming on 5 years of hard work from hundreds of volunteers, staff, supporters and advisors, to get a huge unaddressed issue – the lack of speech therapy in Cambodia, on the agenda. But this bit of recognition, from the Australian Government, is a significant stepping stone.
After close to a decade of working in developing countries, and founding an initiative in Cambodia, I realised I had fallen into a trap. I was perpetuating a myth: that change comes from the heroics of foreigners like myself. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
5 years ago, I came to Cambodia knowing virtually nothing about the country. Now, I still maintain I know next to nothing. As I step back from leadership of OIC Cambodia, here’s 5 things that challenged my preconceived ideas of working in Cambodia.
I leave OIC Cambodia in country in a far better state that I could have imagined. With structure, an exit strategy, and most importantly, the best possible people controlling its destiny. Our new leader, Chenda, is not “replacing Weh”. She is entering a new position, has her own style of leadership, and will do things her way. She has my full support from afar, to make decisions her way and guide the organisation in the way that she sees fit.
Before I speak to you about my work in Cambodia, I wanted to tell you a little about how I’ve come to stand before you today. My great grandparents left China during a time of famine, and moved to Malaysia. My parents came to Australia in the 70’s, seeking a better life for their children. At the time, my father had $200 in his pocket.
In the West, it seems we want to worship leaders who are invincible. Leaders who are all knowing, all wise and can do anything. In my experience, these leaders don’t exist. Here’s how my experience as the leader of OIC Cambodia involves getting people better than me on board.
When I was a kid, I cheated in a school test. Why? Since I can remember, I was told I was gifted, talented and destined for success. My mindset was fixed, and here’s how yours can affect how you work and live.
How do you wade through a sea of good causes to find one worth supporting? Through volunteering and working in countries like Vietnam, China, India and Cambodia for the better part of a decade, these are 10 truths I’ve learnt about helping people in the Global South.