CARE Cambodia has benefitted from the support of many Australian volunteers who have provided advice and assistance to the organization since 1999. CARE has been fortunate to have volunteers first through the VIDA and AYAD programs and then since 2011, through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program.
Seventeen years of support may seem like a lot for just one organisation, but the nature of this support and how it has developed over time mirrors how Cambodia has progressed as a country.
A decade ago Australian volunteers led program implementation for CARE with the support of national staff. They worked on projects such as developing the teaching materials for a curriculum which is now taught in schools across the whole north-east of the country. They also worked with national teams to ensure systems were in place to deliver quality and effective development programming. Many skills were needed as Cambodia recovered from decades of civil war. Volunteers provided those skills at a critical time in the development of the country.
Today, the volunteer experience is much more one of exchange and learning. Cambodia is at a different place and therefore the skills needed are different in nature. There is considerable talent among young Cambodians who are eager to learn, grown, and contribute to their own country. Volunteers work as part of national staff teams and are integrated into a project often with national leadership. They share experiences and learn from their colleagues in a more equitable environment.
This shift in the nature of leadership within NGOs such as CARE has led to a change in the type of support volunteers bring to their roles. CARE’s development needs have experienced a shift in focus towards strategic thinking and bringing in skills from fields other than traditional development sectors to maximise the impact of programs. In 2016 those on AVID placements tend to come to CARE with a wealth of professional experience which allows them to provide a deeper level of development for these emerging leaders.
For example, AVID volunteer Sara Denby joined CARE’s gender-based violence team in 2016 as a Campaigns Officer. Under the leadership of a national colleague who was the Senior Program Manager, Sara supported the team to develop an overarching strategy to engage with men on sexual harassment. With over 22 years of experience in marketing, Sara brought a private sector perspective and a business-like approach to challenges. At the same time she learned from the Cambodian context and appreciated the challenging environment.
CARE is grateful for all volunteers who have been a part of the country’s development over the last 17 years. They are ambassadors to their own countries, assets to CARE, and have contributed considerably to the development of Cambodia.