We have wrapped up another successful year with Expert-Exchange in Cambodia. Reflecting back it is amazing how much we have grown and accomplished through out the years with such limited funding.
This year started with our first Veteran volunteer joining us and conducting some medical projects, school resupplies, and medical clinic resupplies. This by far was one of my favorite memories of the year. It was good to have the company of a fellow Veteran during the holidays last year, and even more significant was our ability to get out and get to work. Last Christmas we were doing 2 deworming clinics in Koh Kong Cambodia. Following the New Years, we hit the road on dirt bikes and went around Siem Reap province resupplying some of the medical clinics that OneGoodTurn and EE had assessed earlier in the year.
We had a notable project where we requested 60 backpacks and school supplies for children in need and in under an hour the donation was met by a very generous Cambodian. Once we got there, the 60 children turned into 100 children and yet again we had a quick turn around, under a few hours and the donation for the remaining 40 children was met. This is beyond humbling and I am grateful for all the support.
April was possibly the busiest month, with OneGoodTurn's Dr Messer returning on a Fulbright Grant to teach at University of Punthisastra. Dr Messer taught year 7 medical students there, who are remarkably intelligent and well prepared, for a period of a few weeks. Following this, Dr Messer along with 3 medical students, another founder of a philanthropy and donor for this project, my staff, and myself headed up to Siem Reap Province for some outreach.
We were able to fully resupply 5 medical clinics, conduct 6 deworming clinics for communities (totaling 6000k patients) and Dr Messer and the medical students were able to train staff at 5 clinics on how to use the medical supplies that were donated. We were busy and got a lot done that week.
I'd like to thank our whole team (listed above) for the hard work, Rattanak from Trailblazers Foundation for helping coordinate, the Governor of Siem Reap for organizing the towns and arranging the Ministry of Health's support, and all of you for the support.
This year also had an increase with media attention for EE. We were featured in podcasts and also I was interviewed on WCAX. WCAX is Vermont's local news station and we discussed the founding of EE and our role in development for the future.
After this I took a leave of absence for four months after receiving the Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace, which gave me the opportunity to study at Middlebury College for the summer and learn Chinese. This also meant starting to step back and shift responsibility to local staff and our country coordinator.
Returning in September, things were running effectively and smoothly. Which allowed me to make the decision to attend school full-time again online and plan to shift full-time responsibility to our country coordinator.
September is when school starts again for the Cambodian children, and we fulfilled our promises for the 3rd year in a row supplying children with basic supplies (back packs, uniforms, shoes, clothes, notebooks, pens, and pencils). Our Country coordinator took lead this year, and we were able to assist an additional 2 communities. One of them we sponsored 24 children and the other we sponsored 41. This is only the beginning and we will be going further out to areas that NGO's do not reach and sponsoring more children. I am happy to say our Country Coordinator is a rock star and is absolutely a positive impact and role model for Cambodian children. In the future she will be writing blogs on here and taking the reins.
With my lack of daily work in Cambodia, does not imply we will be scaling down operations. Just the opposite, I will be focusing on fundraising and expanding operations. We have a very large project planned this year with distribution of medical supplies from a shipping container to 25 clinics. This is still in the planning and coordination stage, with multiple parties involved.
On a closing note, I'd like to reflect back to the start of EE and think about how far we have come. I'd like to thank every single one of you for your support and contributions. The small monthly donations are our bread and butter, these allow us to think long term and plan ahead. We encourage people to consider doing just $5 monthly donation for a New Year pledge to help us continue to develop and fulfill our mission. Happy Holidays!
Onwards and upwards,
We have been busy with multiple outreach projects for school supplies. Following us on our Facebook page and Instagram will keep you up to date best.
The first weekend we were able to help a total of 24 children from a couple communities. We provide school uniforms, basic clothes, backpacks, shoes, school supplies (pens and notebooks) for all children. The second weekend we were able to support 41 children. We were also able to check back in with a family that had moved communities and encourage their 15 year old son to finish school. They have agreed and we will follow up to support where we can. If you are interested in supporting or have ideas, contact us!
Click link here to watch our interview with WCAX news from Vermont: Link
We are wrapping up our medical projects and planning for the future. In Cambodia we are developing a plan for basic first responder training and medical transportation vehicles for rural clinics. We will be updating this blog further with more details.
We are getting excited! In a few weeks Dr. Messer arrives back in Cambodia and our medical projects begin with OneGoodTurn. We will be working with Dr. Messer for a couple weeks in Phnom Penh at the University to help with development and implementation of her medical education program. Along with that, we will be returning to Siem Reap where Dr. Messer and I conducted a medical assessment 6 months ago at a few medical clinics. We will be fully supplying the 4 medical clinics we met with 6 months ago with proper medical equipment and conducting follow up medical clinic outreach to the same locations.
One thing I as the founder would like to address to volunteers (experts) and veterans interested in joining is the amount of work that goes into this cause and what is expected of your commitment. We have high standards and seek people with similar ambitions that are looking to solve complex problems. A lot of hard work is done by many parties to get a project like this going. It is important to address this more often in these blogs so people are aware what they are signing up for. We encourage interested individuals to make comments and suggestions on ways to better implement projects or even better yet, take our model and replicate it for their own causes.
I’ve been told before by volunteers on the ground that the projects we do look simple. I simply smile and say that’s because we are good at doing our job. If the project did not go smoothly, that would mean we did not prepare and do our job correctly. I don’t think people appreciate or understand the logistics and effort in getting these things done, unless they have worked in development before. The amount of time networking and building proposals that never reach fruition is something only people in this line of work understand. There is a need to be resilient and be able to take criticism and feedback on ideas. Also, we need people who are able to work at a high pace and in somewhat stressful environment (it is not similar to working in the US). One reason we are so specific on who we seek for volunteers now is because we have learned over the years and know what it takes to be successful with our goals – that is what is our top priority.
Over the next few months our website will be updated to accurately reflect our work and also address who we are seeking. We will be adding a section for people looking to get involved to submit proposals and in a future blog speak to this further. We are after years of hard work coming into a well-shaped organization that is more than just an idea and now has a clear and defined goal that we are confident we can achieve with the right people getting involved.
We realize everyone wants to be a part of something big, but not everyone wants to put in the hard work and do the mundane tasks to get causes underway and the goal accomplished. Not everything is like it seems on social media and the happiness portrayed is a result of lots of hard work by multiple parties. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is boring and frustrating, but also necessary. Success is like an iceberg. What people see on social media is the result of everything that goes on behind the scenes. I would say 90% of a project is planning, coordinating and other "mundane" task, while the last 10% is the fun part with the actual implementation and where the results can be seen by people on social media.
We are protective of our projects and who we allow to join us, because we have spent years building trust and relationships. We are not looking to throw these away because a volunteer or staff member can't handle themselves in a professional manner or follow through with action on things promised. When joining Expert-Exchange in a project you are in effect representing our brand and also getting the connections to locals and other people via our network. We are all for expanding and growing this with smart, responsible, and driven people who follow through with their words by implementing. Once you join us and become a part of our team we absolutely have your back and will do everything in our power to make you successful with whatever project you are working with us on.
We are actively searching for those who are go getters and looking for Quality over Quantity. We are also looking for a Project Manager to take over operations part time this summer while I am back in the US at school. Please reach out to us if you like what you hear and are up for a challenge. We want to support and assist if we can: www.expert-exchange.org
Expert-Exchange is reaching a defining moment after three years of establishing a mission and baseline of community aid. EE started as a simple idea and developed into a tangible cause set into motion by me the founder, a few Veterans downrange, some experts and locals in Cambodia, and some critical support back stateside.
We are looking for highly motivated Veterans, and civilian experts in their field, who have a humanitarian disposition, know exactly what skills they can offer and a notion of how they'd like to participate. We are not an organization that offers basic volunteer work for funseekers or someone just looking to kill time overseas, rather we would refer those volunteers to another organization. We are seeking motivated individuals with a specific plan and the requisite skills to solve a basic human-needs problem in a region of the world still suffering abject poverty and the aftermath of war.
Applicants must show they can take an idea and implement it fully. During our selection process we look for Experts with a well thought out proposal that shows an understanding of the issues in-country, a targeted problem and a realistic plan to fix it. We facilitate introductions and support the implementation, but the Expert will be expected to do the heavy lifting. You will also be required to conduct follow-through via blog entries on our website and layout a simple 6-month post project check-in schedule for the Experts following in your footsteps: therefore each Expert not only conducts their own project but exercises/accepts delegation and directive responsibilities by carrying the baton for your predecessor and passing it on to your successor. The process will challenge and stretch you but we assure you it will serve as deep catharsis for any veteran or civilian Expert seeking to utilize their skillset, benefit others and deploy for a cause.
Veterans are typically well versed in challenging environments and precarious interactions and so are well suited to the work we do at EE. That said, as a peace-time mission we are without all the typical tools and armor (physical and emotional) of a combat situation: that can make you feel vulnerable in the beginning until you develop your human diplomacy skills, and remember we will be there throughout to support you. This is a swords to ploughshares endeavor that is as transformative for you as a veteran as it is for the people who’s lives you are helping improve.
As EXPERT-EXCHANGE grows we are preparing to offer Fellowships for veterans and other qualifying experts seeking to implement well-crafted projects in Cambodia and other post-conflict regions. We are not an organization that claims we rehabilitate Veterans or directly cures PTSD, however we do expect you to discover a whole range of benefits as a by-product of your stint with us. Hands-on, compassion-based, activity-oriented humanitarian work taps into resources not typically accessed via military deployment and we predict you will find your own personal resolutions via an engagement with EXPERT-EXCHANGE.
The more projects we develop, the more opportunities there are for you in the field and in subsequent mentorship roles either in-country or back stateside. Please reach out to us if you’d like to be considered for a mission with EE.
Transparency time for the last 3 years and lessons learned: Out of our 23 projects we listed on our website, we had issues with 2 projects - Project 10 and Project 14. We also have had one child's grandmother return the clothing and supplies for school to get money after we sponsored that child. We solved that issue and the child is in school.
Project 10 was due to the astronomical high cost of English school per month and we shifted the students to a local NGO which provides English free to anyone who wants to go. What we learned is to help with getting kids into Cambodian school systems and not private English schools. Donors will not support funding year by year for these schools and it will end up going into the budget too much.
Project 14 we learned that we need to diversify when selecting donors for students and keep them more hands off (No Facebook pictures with kids, no matter how much they promise to donate). Some tourists are excited on arrival and promise the world to children and our organization to get the chance to see real Cambodia and see poverty firsthand. Come the next year and/or not being in Cambodia on that vacation, they do not continue with their commitment for sponsorship or fall on hard times themselves. Either way, the children are the ones who suffer.
After this project we assigned 2 donors per child. That way we guarantee funding for the next year and never let down a promise to a child. We no longer bring short-term tourist/volunteers out to our communities. We have shifted completely to hands off approach with all of our school children, where now the parents purchase the goods and give to the children. We only check in once a semester to resupply the parents.
It is an ugly battle in the non-profit and NGO world with using videos and pictures that have children in them. For the first year I was here, we refused to use pictures and only would blog. This resulted in ZERO donations. After our first few pictures and videos went up the donations came in and it became a constant moral battle. We wish that we could just blog and protect the children's innocence. However, we realize how effective a picture of a child before and after going to school is or after receiving medical care. It is also important for transparency. As the founder, I am always battling with morally what is ok and what is not ok. At the end of the day, we want to protect the communities we work with and be as hands off as possible. If the parents in the community are ok with it and understand it yields support then we are ok with it too. At the end of the day, we are looking to have the best impact possible.
The last few projects have been amazing and what Expert-Exchange is all about. We go in, work with a local, pass on the knowledge and leave. This is how aid work is suppose to be in our minds. We are suppose to WORK OURSELVES OUT OF JOBS and be silent professionals. Tirelessly helping behind the scenes getting things done, without the attention. Bring on 2018, we are ready to rock and roll!
The past week I have seen an uptick with veteran suicide on social media and this is yet another reminded on why we started Expert-Exchange and also a while ago launched #beyond22. This holiday season we are going to relaunch #beyond22. The rules are simple, it is similar to the 22 push up a day challenge, instead it is more action orientated. Each day you will either call a veteran, recognize a veteran run business or organization doing great things, donate your time or money with a veteran organization. The focus is on ACTION and IMPLEMENTATION. The 7 minute and 38 second videoblog is worth the listen, we could help save a life and not even realize that we did.
Increasing awareness while implementing action. Expert-Exchange just launched an initiative this holiday season trying to increase awareness while implementing action for the 22 a day push up challenge. That is the goal of #beyond22. There are many well-intentioned people in the world that want to support veterans, but don’t know how to go about it. This page can serve as a resource for not only those individuals, but for veterans and veteran organizations. It is our duty as veterans to help each other.
Additionally, we need to allow willing civilians to provide assistance and inform them what they can do to help. Reach out and unite; there is strength in numbers. Let's proactively show the world how strong we are as veterans with #beyond22. Veterans don't want pity; we want results. This is an idea that represents something more than just a symbol. The symbol of #beyond22 represents action and support with real life follow through.
People engage in various challenges on social media to help raise awareness for specific causes. We want to also help raise awareness, but more importantly, we want to go a step further and take action. We don’t want to simply state that we support an idea, but we want to show how we support this idea and what we are going to do about the issues at hand, how to stop the problem, and be a part of the solution.
If you’re a vet, don’t isolate. Reach out and call somebody. Call another vet you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Get involved. Veterans and civilians alike can volunteer at or donate to an organization that supports veterans. We can and should work together to solve the issues of veteran reintegration and suicide.
Thank you all and we can make a change. Even if it is just minimal, at least we are doing something proactive – we are trying to implement a plan of action. Please continue to share and invite friends to raise awareness so when we do launch #beyond22, it can have the most impact. Social media can be a powerful tool so let's use it together for the good! Let's spread the word so when we start this off #beyond22 goes viral and has an impact that not only includes raising awareness, but is also action orientated.
Expert-Exchange is facing challenges with future operations in Cambodia due to the political climate and the decline in donations. We have come up with a new approach for generating revenue for Expert-Exchange. We have no lack of support with Facebook likes and shares, however, other than a small handful of monthly contributors, we are not receiving the donations needed to accomplish all of our goals. I want to be clear that we are certainly invested with continuing to support the children we have sponsored and fulfilling the promises we made to the locals. Additionally, we do have some exciting new projects occurring in the future and also have a Veteran volunteer joining us in December for a few months!
After analysing the current situation it seems this model is no longer sustainable for us and we have not grown as we had anticipated. One goal of our organization has been to have the ability to sponsor Veterans’ trips so that they are not responsible for the financial burden of funding their visits to Cambodia and instead, volunteering their time to help with development work. We understand that finances are tight and people are hesitant about who they donate funds to and we believe that transparency is key. We also have exhausted options with USAID and other larger taxpayer grants being denied to us due to lack of staff. We don’t feel that we need the staff and have chosen to run a lean team so your donations go directly to our cause and not towards staffing, marketing, and administrative costs. We are prepared in the future with larger grants to facilitate these request, but only upon receiving these grants. Last thing we want to do is hire local staff and have to lay them off. Right now only being dependent on intermittent donations and not being guaranteed enough monthly donations and larger government grants we do not feel comfortable with taking on full time staff.
Our executive director will be shifting the focus to a social enterprise modelthat can help support future operations at Expert-Exchange in conjunction with donations and grants. With this comes a change in direction and tempo for projects being completed by Expert-Exchange. We will plan on doing one focused project quarterly, and additionally will take on other projects with adequate funding. We are still open to more projects; we just need the grants and funding to facilitate our Veterans’ and experts’ travel and lodging expenses while here.
As the executive director I thank everyone for all their support, but can no longer sustain myself financially with the current structure of Expert-Exchange. As a good friend put it, "You need to take care of yourself before you can help other people." I have not taken in any income from Expert-Exchange since its inception and after 3 years, need to face facts. We are not getting the support I anticipated and Veterans do not seem to be joining at the rate I had hoped. It is understandable that Veterans do not want to make the trip out of pocket and I'm grateful for the people who have volunteered and to the Veteran coming next month to help out using their own funds. This truly has been a grassroots effort and it is amazing with what we have accomplished with so little. Just imagine what we could do with proper resources and funding!
To reiterate, we will not turn down future work with upcoming projects and will continue to use our limited funding to support the children we have taken under our wing and fulfill our medical projects. For myself though, I will be switching my day-to-day focus on the for-profit business venture that will help grow local businesses here and, in return, provide funding for Expert-Exchange projects in the future.
Founder & Executive Director
The last few months things have been escalating and tensions between the US and Cambodia governments seem to be at an all time high, which has not hindered Expert-Exchange's work. We do not see the political disputes becoming a problem since we do not involve ourselves in politics and we focus on supporting the development of Cambodia only with their cooperation and approval.
However, we are at a crossroad here in Cambodia and have a very important decision to make pertaining our future operations in the Kingdom. We are focused right now with how to proceed due to the uncertain political environment lately in Cambodia and the lack of funding Expert-Exchange has been receiving Also, the concerning statement from the Prime Minister of Cambodia this week saying that he welcomed the US to cut all aid for Cambodia and making it clear that in the future there is a possibility of US development organizations not being welcomed.
As stated from day one we are not involved politically and we do not have a religious or political agenda. We recognize that we are guests here in Cambodia and respect their government, culture and values. We are not here to push western values, so if Cambodia does not want US assistance in the future we will have no choice but to respect their decision and stop operations and leave.
We will release another more detailed blog before the end of the month that is an absolute must read if you are following our organization and interested in the future of our mission. It has a HUGE announcement about the direction forward with Expert-Exchange. We have been putting a lot of thought and time into this future blogs announcement. Stay tuned!
The idea with this project was to look objectively and conduct a medical assessment on how Expert-Exchange alongside other Doctors and professionals could help with Cambodia’s medical system and infrastructure. Expert-Exchange and Dr Messer from One Good Turn completed a brief medical assessment over an 8 day period in September of 2017. Before OneGoodTurn’s arrival Expert-Exchange conducting it’s own research and aligned Dr Messer with several meetings ranging from universities, to clinics, to elected official, for an ideal overview of the medical situation at hand. Coming into this knowing education would be crucial for solving the problem and getting volunteers and outreach.
We recently welcomed Dr Messer from OneGoodTurn.org to Cambodia for an 8 day intensive medical assessment of the health care education and system. Dr Messer started the trip of by meeting with the University of Punthisastra and meeting with their Steering board and departments heads from the Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentist, and Medical departments. The meeting was Dr Messer’s first in Cambodia and turned out to be very fruitful. At the meeting we went over the great need for hands on clinical experience for the Cambodian Medical students and help structuring the curriculum. Dr Messer has agreed to tenatively return and help develop the curriculum and teach with University of Punthisastra, ideally bringing more Doctors to volunteer and build a better partnership in the future.
Expert-Exchanges idea and future role besides facilitating important connections like this and our vast network in Cambodia, is to work alongside universities that have a developed medical curriculum and enable students from all provinces in Cambodia to become involved and get educated. Our thinking is if Expert-Exchange and other people can sponsor students that are highly motivated and intelligent and have them upon graduating agree for a period of time to work back in their own community or a community of our choosing that is in higher need of medical assistance, this will expedite the development the medical system and also build infrastructure with a university alumni network. If we do this over a period of time we will help restructure the medical community in Cambodia and spread the amount of medical competency across the country quickly. The idea is to have a good base of education, followed by a good network with outreach giving back to rural clinics and larger hospitals. All of this will be under the Ministry of Health so Cambodia is taking charge and developing its medical infrastructure alongside the next generation of Cambodian medical students. This will result ideally in organization and cut down on aid work being done under the radar of government super vision.
After visiting with the University of Punthisastra Dr Messer joined Expert-Exchange in Siem Reap province to conduct a more hands on assessment and meet with local officials in charge to get their view. We linked up with Trailblazers Foundation in Siem Reap and Ratanak who is a Cambodian that understands development very well. Trailblazers Foundation and Ratanak main focus is on safe water access with water wells and filters along with helping with agriculture, but since they have such a good relationship with the community they were able to help make introductions to the local clinic doctors and the District Commune Governor.
Dr Messer’s first day of work included three clinic visits and one meeting with the District Commune Governor in Siem Reap. The first clinic that we visited was recently built by the US Navy Seabee’s and was very impressive structurally. The main concern of the head doctor and nurse at the clinic was lack of medical training along with proper medical supplies. This issue was not uncommon as we went on with our assessment. We found the clinics to be built nice, however understaffed and lacking the medical education. All of these things are fixable and can incorporate more medical volunteers to engage with education, alongside using the medical students at the colleges to do hands on work at these clinics with the medical doctors volunteering.
Expert-Exchange is always looking how to help a project with focus on sustainability in the long-term so we are not having to repeat our work 10 years down the road. We find that with the medical projects it is a good mix of short-term fix solutions, with Doctors helping hands on at the clinic alongside local Cambodian Doctors, Nurses, and Medical Students. Along with this having a good long-term effect by exchange of information and education in a developed curriculum and outreach education program. This is why the Ministry of Health’s involvement and higher standards will be so important for the future success of any medical development project.
The second clinic we attended was located behind a landfill and the community often went through the trash in search of items to use or sell. This clinic was understaffed and in need of some basic medical equipment. Their room where they females gave birth lacked a light, which was the most alarming and urgent need we came across here. Like all the other clinics that were extremely open to receiving more volunteers and education exchange.
After this clinic Dr Messer, Expert-Exchange and Ratanak ended up meeting with the District Commune Governor about his concerns for health care and the community. The Governor was very open to the idea of Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange helping as long as we included the Ministry of Health. The Governor voiced his concerns on 2 districts in specific that needed help the most, one of them lacked a health care clinic and was a community on the water and the other was more rural so volunteers didn’t attend that clinic as easy as others closer to Siem Reap town. With the permission of the Governor and Ministry of Health we went out to the two locations suggested by the Governor.
The first location that the Governor suggested we visited immediately after the meeting. This clinic was again structurally built very nice and had the same issues as most clinics. There were a few things that were concerning with this clinic, 1) the high rate of TB in the community and whether they are accurately diagnosing this correctly and 2) The education level, we showed up and there was a dengue test positive on the table for a patient. The nurse informed us though that the patient did not yet have dengue, even though the test was taken and it showed a positive result. This raised another issue with when looking at the diagnosis and pharmacy logs, are they over prescribing things wrongly and are local clinics accurately able to diagnose TB and Dengue along with other illnesses. These are all concerns that will loop back to the universities and the education level aspect with hands on experience and in the long-term with medical students being educated with more hands on approach solve this issue through out Cambodia.
After this clinic, Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange decided to visit the floating village the following day and talk to the village chief and hear his concerns for the community. This village was also the Governor’s priority and the village is located on water 6 months of the year and the water dries up the other 6 months of the year, so half the year it is floating and the other half it is dry land. They recently had a private company from China come in and install power, however this private company charges 5 times the normal prices and many homes can not afford the power so they still use generators.
The village chief was very open and helpful with explaining the main medical problems faced in the area and open to Dr Messer’s feedback and help. We also met with the village nurse who was able to indulge in more detail on specific diagnosis and numbers of cases. Their concerns were the same as the other clinics along with them not having their own clinic. Their community suffered from a high rate of alcoholism too. Among that we found upper respiratory infections to be the leading illness in the rural areas we visited. Also Diabetes, high blood pressure, arthiritis and this year was higher than normal for Dengue. Every 5 years there is usually an uptick in Dengue and this year is that year.
After listening to the village chief and the nurse Dr Messer decided we would run a basic Albendazole and Vitamin A clinic the following day. Expert-Exchange also provided tooth brushes and tooth paste with soap. Dental hygiene is of concern in Cambodia and that would be a completely separate medical assessment.
That following day we had two separate clinics in the community and saw around 600 people. The clinic turned out to be a success and Expert-Exchange will return in 6 months as promised for their follow up doses. With Albendazole and Vitamin A they are taken one time every six months for preventative measures and helps with deworming and cognitive health.
After the successful outreach and health clinic Dr Messer and Expert-Exchange flew back to Phnom Penh for a few follow up meetings. Dr Messer was able to meet with two highly motivated medical students from University of Punthisastra to ask them questions about their education and also what their concerns and feedback would be about the healthcare system. The meeting was extremely productive and has resulted in Dr Messer planning on returning to Cambodia to teach classes here and possible help develop the medical curriculum.
Expert-Exchange will be releasing a detailed report of our medical assessment project soon and if you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Expert-Exchange. With Dr Messer and the support of everyone involved we were able in a short period of time to take an in depth look at multiple angles of the health care system from public to private sectors, along with local government to the Ministry of Health. We were able to look at the health care system and assess from the basic clinic level from public and private clinics, to understanding the education and supply chain, to understanding the future education and helping implement a deworming clinic, and also making sure to work hand and hand with the Ministry of Health in recording and conducting outreach. There was a lot done and Expert-Exchange provided Dr Messer with a clear medical assessment that covered a variety of levels that make up the whole. Expert-Exchange will now continue with the assessments in more areas and conduct basic Albendazole and Vitamin A clinics at the request of provinces and communities in Cambodia.
This month we have been preparing for a very significant and complex project to take place in September. Expert-Exchange is pleased to announce we will be hosting a medical doctor from the United States who will be here in Cambodia for an initial assessment project. Dr. Messer, from onegoodturn.org, will be assessing the healthcare and medical needs of areas in Cambodia along with options for longer-term humanitarian aid work, combined with educational cooperation between universities in the U.S. and universities in Cambodia.
The role of Expert-Exchange includes assisting and facilitating all meetings and appropriately coordinating proper introductions between parties in Cambodia who can facilitate the mission. Dr. Messer will be meeting with medical doctors and pharmacists in Cambodia who are experts in their field. She will also be in meetings with universities to see if we can develop an education program and long-term exchange program. Plans are to visit other NGOs and mobile clinics to see the differences and what works best between private and NGO sectors in health care. Finally, it is our intention to learn about and gain an understanding of the advances that Cambodia has made lately since the genocide and how their historical and very challenging past as a war-torn nation, has not defined them. I will share more about the results of this initial assessment visit and project in my blog for September. Ideally the outcome will be a long-term collaborative project from the meetings and introductions of the medical professionals in Cambodia with this medical doctor from the U.S.
Expert-Exchange is actively seeking one or more Veterans to join our team in both temporary and more permanent situations. The amount of time and effort is flexible. If you have a sense of adventure and a desire to serve humanitarian causes, please consider adding your name by signing up on our website or contacting me directly, if you prefer. Sponsorship for travel to Cambodia, with lodging covered, is anticipated to be available in the near future. We encourage you to contact us soon if your interest and availability is aligned with this opportunity.
Expert-Exchange was founded in 2014. As the founder, I have been in Cambodia since that time paving the way for other Veterans to join. The model with Expert-Exchange is built around the idea of Veterans using their skillsets and desire to continue to serve for the purpose of doing humanitarian work. We anticipate that after the project with the medical doctor, and sponsorship of a Veteran to join us in 2018, the true reason Expert-Exchange was founded will come to life. In order to prepare and move forward, we will need a number of Veterans participating soon. For those who would like to step up and become more active in efforts to help humanity, including making improvements to impoverished or disenfranchised communities in another country, or if you can help us get the word out to facilitate this mission, or if you know someone who might be a good candidate to do so, please get in touch!
We have a very exciting project coming up in September that has been in the works for a sometime. All the hard work and planning is coming together. We will continue to support the schools and children with supplies for school this fall.
Expert-Exchange will be working with One Good Turn this September along side other NGO's and Cambodian medical colleges to assess a plan for a long-term sustainable medical project and conduct medical outreach with local clinics this September. More in the following blog to come on details!
In the beginning, the road less traveled can be hard and confusing sometimes on how to navigate. The idea for Expert-Exchange to become a model of the "Peace Corps" for Veterans is still just this, an idea. Right now, we have been using volunteers from all over the world in Cambodia to help with our projects, but have yet to have a Veteran join us. As the Founder and a Veteran myself, this concerns me some. I have been laying the ground work for two solid years now and have not had my vision come to fruition yet. The main set-back is funding, with the airfare from the United States or other locations being relatively expensive.
Here is the thing though, I am 100 percent sure there are Veterans right now who want to help and who are more than willing to come here to Cambodia. There are Veterans who have completed their time in the military and still desire that sense of purpose beyond themselves again and who would desperately thrive on the adventure of a new mission. This mission would be different. It would be not of that with war, but quite the opposite. This mission would be to aid humanity - specifically in Cambodia – by helping develop the country post-war. The implications of this idea are powerful for many reasons. It has multiple positive outcomes including preventing suicide and post-military negative transition; provide meaningful assistance to a developing country with positive culture exchanges between our countries; and, ultimately to be part of contributing to the better aspect of humanity and providing for human needs.
Veterans have tremendous discipline already and are ideal candidates for humanitarian work. I really believe that this is an untapped demographic for aid work, because it is such a natural transition minus the weapons.
What will we be doing in the future to make sure this idea is not just that, an idea. We will start looking for Veterans to sign up for a waiting list and apply for future projects. We will be seeking partners and donors to get this from a concept to reality. Last, we will also be seeking to work with experts to have long term sustainable projects that truly provide enrichment to the country and not just the volunteers.
As the Founder of Expert-Exchange I thank the support from the rear that I have at this time. This support is instrumental to the success of this organization. What I am challenging and looking for is that fellow Veteran who believes in this as much as I do to come join me and make this happen. We can lead the way to creating an organization for our brothers and sisters to find that sense of purpose again and also we will be helping with big problems in the world. Do you want to help? Reach out to us and let us know how you want to get involved!
The month of May was busy for us continuing our projects in Cambodia and developing new relationships back in the United States. We are in the beginning process of planning medical and business projects for Cambodia. We will be planning longer-term projects that have a business sustainable impact for regions in Cambodia to grow jobs and reduce poverty. We are also planning a medical trip with outreach and education in the next few months.
April has been a month full of outreach and meetings. While back in the United States for a couple months, we went to Washington D.C and met with a few groups and politicians for discussions about Expert-Exchange and to gain support for using Veterans to participate in humanitarian work. We have since developed a solid business model using Veterans along-side experts to complete several types of humanitarian projects.
In the future, we will be continuing to reach out to politicians and other Veteran groups to propel Expert-Exchange to the next level. We have recently been applying for grants and seeking new, larger donors to support our mission. This July we have plans to host and collaborate with a group of medical doctors to assess needs and provide aid in Cambodia while considering a longer-term impact project. Efforts to promote and engage with Veterans are coming to fruition and we are getting increasing interest from volunteers to join Expert-Exchange with humanitarian tasks in Cambodia.
What's next? -- Implementation of these projects in order to grow at a pace that continues to allow for more projects and successes! At this juncture, we are at a very pivotal point and will be going from grass roots to the next step soon. This is all very exciting and we appreciate your generous support!
We went out to Chi Kreng district in Cambodia the other day to check in on progress with water access and schools. We are pleased to see more and more families getting access to water. Access to water greatly improves their life and allows them to also plant small gardens for their families.
We were able to deliver around 1,000 notebooks to Beno Primary School and will provide the 250+ kids with materials for the whole school year. On top of that we had a fun surprise planned for the children. We were able to introduce music to their studies and provided them with a speaker and microphone to use. This will give them the opportunity to have events and use it for other school functions. In Cambodia the public schools do not have music or arts apart of their studies. We thank all the generous donors that allow this to happen and the people who volunteer their time helping. Below is a video of the fun!
Happy International Women's Day! We went out to the Women's Development Center located in Angkor Thom, Cambodia and recognized these ladies for all of their hard work. We have been working with them the last month on establishing more sales and sustainable business ventures. They make some of the nicest handmade products I have seen in Cambodia. This visit we took a break from work and enjoyed some cake and laughs.
We will be updating you more in the future about this project and also the products they make so you can help support them with buying their hand made products.
Expert-Exchange has hit the ground running this New Year. We have had a lot of new things in the works and have been networking with other veteran organizations. In the future we will be looking to add members to our team and partner up with other like-minded organizations. Our biggest take away the last month is that we need to unite and get proactive!
What have we been up to the last month? We have gone to Laos to check out the need for aid. What Laos needs most is help with de-mining and vocational training. We have started the process in talking to local NGO's and businesses working in Laos to do mutual projects.
We have been pushing forward in Cambodia and meeting with many NGO's to see what we can collaborate on and how to work together. With generous donors and backing we continue to help support children’s education and with basic supplies.
We will be heading to Myanmar next month to also assess what is needed in more austere regions that are not touched by aid. There is a huge demand for support in Myanmar and Expert-Exchange looks forward to getting there as soon as possible and hopefully help lead the way with aid and development.
We encourage our veterans and everyone else to get involved. The world needs highly motivated individuals to come together and take on the challenges of improving our world. As we have said before, veterans are ideal candidates to help Expert-Exchange grow and successfully accomplish its goals. Veterans have the unique ability to bring order to chaos and are well suited to assist in post war countries with development. We believe to stop future wars and conflicts that we need to eradicate poverty and provide proper education to people in need. As Americans, our actions in other countries are powerful statements and shape international opinions of who the people of the United States are and what we stand for. We want other countries to get the message that we are hospitable people and our veterans are the backbone of our society. Will you get involved and help us better the world? There are many ways to get involved from home and abroad, please contact us!
Happy holidays and it has certainly been an amazing year for Expert-Exchange. We have helped sponsor 15 kids for full-time school who would be on the streets begging if it was not for our hard work and loyal supporters. We have also supplied 4 different schools helping over 250+ children with school supplies, from backpacks to books, pens, pencils, and uniforms. Looking back we have done a lot this year. We taught basic first aid classes. We also put in 4 wells to give communities safe access to drinking water. We provided children with basic hygiene supplies and taught them how to use them.
We also learned some valuable lessons. If a donor opts to sponsor a child’s education, this is not a one-year commitment. Expert-Exchange learned that we couldn’t necessarily allow a single sponsor to be assigned to a single child, in case the donor decides not to sponsor the child each year the child is eligible for school. In this way we can stay true to the child and ensure their education until completion.
We have also witnessed the negative side of aid work and made mistakes ourselves. One thing we are constantly doing is picking up where others have left off. We find there are a lot of well-intentioned and good-hearted people who visit Cambodia. They build a school and then they leave and the school does not have the proper funding or aid it needs to sustain itself. We have spent a lot of time going around and trying to support these schools with supplies and aid. Thankfully we have had support from our donors to be able to do so. However, we need a lot more support. For example, we are working with one school right now with has 825 children. They have 7 teachers! Out of the 825 children, 35% of them regularly do not attend because they are out on the streets begging. We are kicking it up a notch and really pushing to make this problem disappear.
We also learned that there are people that take advantage of aid who do not need it and when people are living in poverty they resort to short-term thinking instead of long-term thinking. It is difficult for them to see how a long-term plan to help them sustain and bring themselves out of poverty would be beneficial when they are constantly thinking about how to get their basic needs met on a daily basis. One example Expert-Exchange had was of a child we sponsored for school. The parent sold the clothing and materials supplied for the child to go to school back to the market for the money. The child in return did not attend school for 2 weeks until we found out about the situation. After talking to the teachers we were able to get the child back into school and work out a deal with the family on how to support the child. The next blog I write will be in more detail about the ups and downs of the year. This one I want to focus on the holiday gift campaign we are running.
The good is that your donations are helping and making a huge impact. We could use more volunteers to do fundraisers and generate awareness. We also really could benefit from reliable corporate sponsors so we can plan years ahead. This holiday season we are running a campaign to give the gift of a donation in someone’s name for Expert-Exchange. In return the person will be recognized on social media and the website. This small sacrifice will literally take a child off the street and give him or her the gift of education. Please consider giving a donation in someone’s name as a stocking stuffer to a loved one. The holidays are about family and giving; remember that there are people who do not have a warm meal to eat and have to beg. There are kids going through trash instead of getting an education. This is one of the most meaningful and selfless gifts you can give this holiday season. We thank you in advance and as the founder I appreciate all of the support. The holidays are a wonderful time of year and I miss being home with family and friends. It really hurts me to know that there are kids still out there who need our help and we will do everything in our power to give these kids a fair chance in this world. We can only do so much and I am very proud of what we have accomplished this year and am extremely grateful for all the support we have had. Thank you, not only from me but also from the people of Cambodia. You have changed their lives and they are so grateful. I'd like you to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in knowing you have changed lives and I encourage you to keep helping to support our mission.
Happy holidays and please consider supporting our mission
We were able to hit the ground running when the founder of Expert-Exchange got back this last week to Cambodia. Thank you to the support from donors and hard work by Torror, we were able to sponsor 10 children this week for school. We provided backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, and basic clothes.
Expert-Exchange is excited to have this be our second year of sponsorship for children in the community. Last year we were able to sponsor 3 children and this year 7. This will furthur show our dedication to the people in Cambodia and fostor a deeper relationship between Expert-Exchange and the local people. We are trying to let our actions speak for us and the next month we will be very busy. We have a lot of exciting things coming up. Don't want to ruin all the surprises, but keep a look out for us!!!!
Our donations thru amazon smile have been a huge success. We are also reminding donor that if you contribute $25 and up you will receive a Expert-Exchange challange coin.
With the holidays around the corner we are accepting donations in recognition of someone else. We will feature the person of your chioce on social media. This makes for a very selfless gift and Expert-Exchange will be posting more about this in the future.
With everything going on in the world right now, it is more important than ever for Veterans to unite and step up to the plate. There is much work to be done home and abroad. What I appreciate most about the United States is that it is a country that has shown it has the ability to unite. At times our society tries to divide us by race or religion. With Veterans, there are no “isms” and such things like skin color and religion don’t matter. As Veterans we are just that, Veterans.
From firsthand experience I will be honest and say being an American abroad is difficult right now. Everyone is very opinionated and judgmental about our country. They believe what they see and read from news media and from social media and then form their impression about our country and its citizens. However their opinions can and do change after meeting someone from the United States. More than ever before we need Veterans abroad to truly show what we stand for and to show our selfless service. With just one interaction we can portray the correct impression to foreigners. We can show them that we are charitable and an extremely honorable culture of people. Our experience in the military has shaped us to strive in environments that need order and rebuilding. This is exactly what Expert-Exchange seeks to provide and continue to do for not only Cambodia, but other countries. We have a lot of exciting things lined up for the future and will be expanding to Myanmar to set up an NGO there.
For Veterans feeling lost or lacking a purpose, I encourage you to reach out and become part of something bigger. If you don't desire the adventure of SE Asia, get involved with an organization back home and help your community. Stay connected to fellow Veterans and like-minded people. To change this world for the better and the next generation we need to come together and do some serious work. We have the potential and ability. If you want to join Expert-Exchange in our mission please contact us. We can use help domestically if you cannot travel and we can use motivated individuals to join us abroad. Remember actions speak louder than words.
Due to the generous donations from Joey Lim, Expert-Exchange was able to connect with Cambodian Buddhism Association for Vulnerable Children (CBAVC) and go out to the villages they are supporting with wells and aid. CBAVC has supported over 217 water wells to more than 12 villages in 2 communities. While out at the village we visited the school and handed out toys that Joey Lim donated to the school children. Most children have never had the chance to have their own toy and this brings them much joy and happiness.
Joey Lim also has helped donate and hand out rice with Project 6 and Project 9. She has been extremely helpful with projects 1 thru 9. Assisting in taking pictures and video taping these projects. Joey has been a dedicated and driving force to Expert-Exchanges growth and success with her selfless service and hours of volunteering not only resources (rice), but more importantly her time and helping raise awareness.
Executive Director's Blog
Follow Macie through SE Asia as he embarks on a humanitarian adventure and assists inspirational individuals to improve their life quality.