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.
In 2013, I started OIC Cambodia . Now, I’m months away from handing over leadership.
Stepping back from OIC, the organisation I founded, will be bittersweet. But this move isn’t just necessary, it’s also crucial to our future success. Here’s why.
In the coming years, we’ll look back at 2016 fondly. It was a tough year, we fought hard, and made some mistakes too. But on balance, 2016 was a year when OIC Cambodia took huge steps towards no longer being no longer a baby. In 2016, we learnt to walk.
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.
When you turn on the TV in countries like Australia, the US or across Europe, you see images of suffering. Our first instincts are to help.
The next instinct should be to ask: how do we know when to stop?
Three years ago, I founded OIC: The Cambodia Project, an initiative to establish speech therapy as a profession in Cambodia. Starting OIC from nothing has been a huge challenge. And yet, it’s time for me to say goodbye.