Professional Business Consultant volunteers for 6 months in Cambodia
Stanley Hou, a 27-year-old Michigan resident, decided to use his talents to contribute to a country less fortunate than his own. “I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I had developed in my professional career to help make a difference in a part of the world that needs it; I also wanted to experience living in a very different culture for an extended period of time.” So he signed up with Projects Abroad and traveled to Cambodia to live and work for six months.
“I worked as a consultant for the Riverkids Foundation, an NGO that works to fight child trafficking in numerous communities in Phnom Penh through preventative strategies such as education, family counseling, providing vocational skills and job training. As a consultant, I worked mostly with the management team that leads the organization to improve the management of Riverkids’ many programs.”
Riverkids, like nearly all NGOs in Cambodia, operates on a near-minimal budget, so they need all the help from volunteers they can get. Projects Abroad has sent a number of volunteers to Riverkids in the past to work as consultants. The quality of volunteers that have worked at Riverkids has helped make a real difference to the NGO.
“My daily tasks changed from day-to-day depending on the specific project I was working on. It could involve creating and planning documents, helping document new policies and procedures, interviewing staff to obtain data, analyzing said data, brainstorming solutions to problems with management, observing staff, etc,” said Stanley on what his days at Riverkids looked like. “I had a tremendous amount of responsibility. The management team was very open with me from the beginning about many of the organization’s key issues and ways in which they thought I could help. My main problem was that I didn’t have any clones of myself to help with all the work.”
“During the six months that I volunteered, I was involved in a lot. Examples include helping the management team formulate and write Riverkids’ strategic plan for the next three years, redesigning and conducting the annual staff satisfaction survey, planning and conducting multiple skills-building workshops for management staff, and helping to document a number of internal policies and procedures,” said Stanley. “By writing the strategic plan, I think I have helped Riverkids determine a formal strategy that will guide them in the right direction for at least the next three years. My work with the staff survey brought to the attention of the management team numerous issues that they are already working to address. I have also received very positive feedback on the workshops I have conducted from staff who found them helpful,” he continued
Stanley recognizes that his volunteering experience will definitely have an impact on his future, “Apart from the many specific consulting-related skills and knowledge, I’ve learned how to better and more independently direct, plan, and take charge of my own work, not to mention how to adjust to and work in a completely different type of working environment. Those are transferable skills to almost any future career.”
In his six months spent in Cambodia, Stanley’s most memorable moment is a Riverkids event, “In the beginning of the school year, all of the children Riverkids supports (over 400) were invited to a ceremony to receive new school supplies. It reminded me of the importance of Riverkids’ mission and the work I was doing with them.”
Even though Cambodia is very different to America, there are many aspects of Cambodia and the Cambodian people that Stanley loved, “Outside of the many beautiful locales and breathtaking attractions, the one thing that always stood out to me was the friendliness and warmness of the Cambodian people. No matter where I went, they were always made me feel welcome. Their general friendliness is something the Cambodian people take a lot of pride in, rightly and deservedly so!”