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!
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.