The sounds of a rooster crowing in the background of our video call immediately transported me to rural Cambodia. Next came the sound of the bread vendor with a piercing cry of “parng parng” and the ‘varoom’ of a passing moto. It was the first of several orientation meetings with the CFI team, at the beginning of a 3 month volunteer placement.
What impressed me most in those early weeks was the commitment and enthusiasm of the staff; how clearly they were able to articulate why they do what they do; the respect with which they talk about the children and families that they work with and the strong thread of collaboration and working with others to achieve CFI’s vision of a future where every Cambodian child is safe, healthy, educated and thriving.
What is also striking is that CFI has utilised the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to work in new ways. Who would have imagined computer tablets in remote villages so that children could continue to learn remotely; support to develop small businesses for families who usually rely on migration to Thailand to earn an income and embracing a volunteer living thousands of kilometres away?
The original brief was to develop a stakeholder and donor engagement strategic management plan. As I met individually with staff, to understand the complex matrix of internal systems and external relationships, which form the context of the day to day work of CFI, the professionalism of the leadership and management team shone through. CFI rightly has a place amongst not-for profit organisations in Cambodia that have a commitment to best practice in child protection and education, to transparency and accountability and to creating an organisational culture which promotes ongoing learning for staff.
There are challenges for organisations which have their origins in the developed world, set out to address the inequalities and poverty that they see in developing countries like Cambodia. Over many years CFI has been on a journey to empower children, families and communities in EK Phnom, with the skills to take a greater role in creating a positive future for themselves. From my perspective CFI is in good hands to continue along this path.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be welcomed into CFI and to gain some insight into to the difference CFI makes to the lives of children, their families and their communities in Battambang.
Australian Volunteer Program