At the end of 2017, I decided to volunteer in a Group Home for HIV-positive children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I would be teaching English and IT-skills for 3 months. Never in a million years did I think this decision would have such a profound impact on my life. And never in a million years did I think that 8 months later I would have founded a new NGO…
My Cambodian Journey
From day 1 in Phnom Penh, I felt at home. As time went by I got more and more attached to the children, the staff and the caring and loving environment of the Group Home. The 3 months flew by, and before I knew it was time for me to return to Denmark. Leaving these children was incredibly difficult for me. I was really going to miss my new Cambodian family, and I had already made plans to come back later in 2018. However, barely a week after I left I got a call from the Group Home Manager, conveying shocking news. The NGO (non-governmental organization), that was financially supporting the Group Home, suddenly decided to withdraw their support. They wanted to put their finances into a new high-profile project instead. This meant the Group Home would have to close. The 29 children, most of them orphaned, would be left to fend for themselves. I instantly knew I could not let this happen. Having only spent 3 weeks in Denmark, I knew I needed to go back to Cambodia, back to the Group Home. I needed to answer their cry for help.
In January 2018, I came back to Cambodia. The atmosphere in the group home had drastically changed. The children were noticeably anxious and upset. A devastating difference with their usual silly and playful selves I had left only 3 weeks before. Everyone was deeply affected by the news that the Group Home was made to close down: the only home many of these children have ever known. Together with the Group Home Manager I came up with a solution: we needed to set up a new NGO that could take over the organization of the Group Home. With an education in Multimedia Design and a PBA in Digital Concept Development, I initially had no idea where to start. But with the children as my motivation, I was determined to save their home. It was certainly not going to be easy, but I had to at least try. Over the next months, I spend long days in the office and long nights behind my computer in order to find staff for the new NGO and all the different positions the organization would require. I had to take on many different roles in this process. I was preparing documents for the Cambodian ministry and created budgets for the new organization: Bright Hope Cambodia. Additionally, I was creating a website, logo, looking for sponsors, and creating sponsor material. I reached out to previous volunteers for help and had many meetings with local NGO experts in Cambodia, who were able to guide me through the difficult start-up process.
After 3 tough months we reached the first milestone. The ministry accepted our application to become a local NGO and we were officially registered. After this, the pace picked up considerably. I landed the first sponsor contracts, we found a new house for the children, and were able to ensure that it would run smoothly on a daily basis. Bright Hope Cambodia was a success. The children’s home and future were secure once more. 5 months later and my job was done, and it was time for me to go home to Denmark.
I will always look back on my time in Cambodia as an incredibly journey, full of challenges and new experiences. I did not only learn about the workings and set-up of NGO’s, I learned a lot about myself as well. This journey has changed me. I have grown professionally but also as a person, and this has made me more confident about my capabilities. 8 months in Cambodia has truly put my life into perspective.
Being back in Denmark, I am ready to put my new-found energy and skills into an exciting job. I am a creative digital person who is not afraid of responsibility and challenges. I have ample experience in working with websites, Adobe programs, graphic design, online marketing, online communication, social media platforms and so forth. I am enthusiastic and outgoing, ready to learn and very excited about whatever comes next.
Please check out this online portfolio I created in WordPress, to learn more about who I am, my skills and capabilities, and examples of some of my previous work.
I am actively looking around for a new job experience and would be very happy to hear from you! You can contact me here, or send me a mail and we can meet up.
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By: Camilla Toft Pedersen